Egypt has threatened to suspend a key peace treaty if Israel incursions into a border town in the Gaza Strip, officials said.

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RAFAH (Gaza Strip) – Egypt has threatened to suspend its peace treaty with Israel if Israeli forces are sent to the densely populated border city of Rafah, and says fighting there could lead to the closure of the Strip’s main aid supply route, Egyptian officials and a Western diplomat said Sunday.

The threat to suspend the Camp David Accords, which have been the cornerstone of regional stability for nearly half a century, came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said sending troops to Rafah was necessary to achieve victory in the four-month-long war against the Palestinian Hamas movement.

More than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have fled to Rafah to escape fighting elsewhere, crowding into sprawling camps and UN-run shelters near the border. Egypt fears a mass influx of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees Who may never be allowed back.

The standoff between Israel and Egypt, two close allies of the United States, comes as aid groups warn that the attack on Rafah will worsen the already catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza, where about 80% of the population has fled their homes and where the United Nations says A quarter of the population faces famine.

It is unclear where the civilians will go

Netanyahu, in an interview with ABC News titled “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” suggested that civilians in Rafah could flee north, saying there were “a lot of areas” that had been cleared by the army. He said that Israel was developing a “detailed plan.” To move them.

But the attack caused Widespread destructionEspecially in northern Gaza, violent battles are still taking place in central Gaza and the city of Khan Yunis, south of it. A ground operation in Rafah could also lead to the closure of its crossing, cutting off one of the only routes for aid delivery. Food and medical supplies are urgently needed.

The three officials confirmed the Egyptian threats and spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief journalists on the sensitive negotiations. Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other countries also warned against this Serious repercussions If Israel enters Rafah.

“The Israeli attack on Rafah will lead to an unspeakable humanitarian catastrophe and serious tensions with Egypt,” Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, wrote on the X website.

Israel and Egypt fought five wars before signing the Camp David Accords, a historic peace treaty brokered by then US President Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s. The treaty includes several provisions governing the deployment of forces on both sides of the border.

Egypt has heavily fortified its border with Gaza, establishing a 5-kilometre (3-mile) buffer zone and erecting concrete walls above and below ground. It denied Israeli allegations that Hamas was still running smuggling tunnels under the border, saying Egyptian forces had full control over its side.

But Egyptian officials fear that if the border is breached, the army will not be able to stop a wave of people fleeing to the Sinai Peninsula.

The United Nations says Rafah, which is usually inhabited by fewer than 300,000 people, is now hosting 1.4 million More have fled the fighting elsewhere and it is “extremely overcrowded.”

Netanyahu said that Hamas still has four brigades there. “Those who say we should not enter Rafah under any circumstances are basically saying lose the war, keep Hamas there,” he told ABC News.

Palestinian traffic fees

Israel ordered most of Gaza’s population to flee to the south, and issued evacuation orders covering two-thirds of the Strip, although it regularly carries out air strikes in all areas, including Rafah. Air raids on the town in recent days led to the killing of dozens of Palestinians, including women and children.

Ministry of Health in Gaza He said on Sunday that the bodies of 112 people killed across the region were transferred to hospitals during the past 24 hours, in addition to 173 wounded. This brings the death toll in the Gaza Strip to 28,176 since the beginning of the war. The ministry does not differentiate between civilians and fighters, but says that most of the dead were women and children.

The war began with Hamas attack on southern Israel on October 7When Palestinian militants killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and kidnapped about 250. More than 100 hostages were released in November during a week-long ceasefire in exchange for the release of 240 Palestinian prisoners.

Hamas said it would not release any more prisoners unless Israel ended its attack and withdrew from the Gaza Strip. It also demanded the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including top militants serving life sentences.

Netanyahu has strongly ruled out both demands, saying that Israel will continue fighting until “complete victory” and the return of all prisoners.

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Magdy reported from Cairo.

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Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.

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