Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi on Sunday said Israel’s response to Hamas’ attack amounted to “collective punishment” of the people in the heavily populated Gaza Strip.
Since the October 7 surprise attack, Israel has unleashed waves of airstrikes on Gaza, and the stakes are high for an imminent Israeli ground offensive in the territory.
“The ongoing act, I think, has gone beyond right to self-defence on the side of Israel and has turned into collective punishment of the Gaza Strip populated by 2.3 million Palestinians,” he said in televised remarks at a meeting with United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Cairo.
Blinken’s visit to Egypt is part of a regional tour aimed at preventing Israel’s conflict with Hamas from spiralling into a regional war.
He has already visited Israel, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Al-Sissi called for humanitarian aid deliveries to the blockaded territory to be facilitated to ease its people’s sufferings.
“It is very important to de-escalate tensions and also to facilitate the aid entry into the Gaza Strip,” he said.
Israel has stopped the entry of food, fuel and medicines to Gaza, prompting dire warnings about the conditions faced by civilians in the impoverished territory.
Al-Sissi said Egypt is making efforts to contain the situation and prevent other parties from entering the conflict.
Earlier on Sunday, Al-Sissi chaired a meeting of Egypt’s National Security Council on the spiralling violence in Gaza.
A presidential statement issued after the meeting said Egypt would intensify efforts to deliver humanitarian assistance to the neighbouring Gaza Strip, amid fears of a mass displacement.
Rafah, the only border crossing from Gaza to Egypt, is currently closed due to the retaliatory Israeli bombardment of the strip.
Egyptian media on Saturday quoted unidentified Egyptian sources as saying that Cairo links the passage of foreign nationals from Gaza through the crossing to facilitating aid deliveries to the strip.
The Israeli army told civilians in northern Gaza to head south, ahead of a widely expected incursion that was reportedly delayed due to adverse weather conditions.
Egypt, the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, is worried about a mass exodus of Gazans into its territory.
Egypt said on Sunday it “rejects and denounces the displacement policy, or attempts to liquidate the Palestinian cause at the expense of neighbouring countries”.
“Egypt’s national security is a red line,” the presidential statement added.
It also said Egypt plans to host a regional and international conference on the “developments and future of the Palestinian cause”. (NAN)