Israel Gaza war: Satellite images show construction on Egypt’s border

Satellite image shows a wall being erected along Egypt's border with Gaza on 15 February

By Alys Davies & Paul Adams, diplomatic correspondent

BBC News

Satellite images appear to show extensive construction work in progress along Egypt’s border with Gaza, which reports claim is being carried out in preparation for housing Palestinian refugees.

Unnamed Egyptian sources reportedly said the work is being done in order to set up an isolated buffer zone containing a walled enclosure in Egypt’s North Sinai province in case Israel goes ahead with its planned ground offensive in Gaza’s southernmost city, Rafah.

According to a report published by a human rights group, seven-metre-high walls are being constructed in the zone.

Egypt has publicly denied making any such preparations.

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant also said Israel “has no intention of evacuating Palestinian civilians to Egypt”.

Since the start of the Gaza war following Hamas’s attack on Israel on 7 October, Egypt has consistently said it would not open its border to refugees.

It has taken that stance partly because it does not want to appear complicit in the large-scale displacement of Palestinians, but also out of economic and security concerns.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears set on a major offensive in Rafah – where some 1.4 million people are sheltering – despite a chorus of international warnings.

Israel claims Hamas forces are in the city and must be “eliminated”. It also believes Israeli hostages – of which 130 are still unaccounted for – are being held there.

Ahead of the planned assault on Rafah, Israel is directing civilians to move to open ground north of the city.

Mr Netanyahu has spoken vaguely of “areas that we’ve cleared north of Rafah”, but indications suggest planning is still at an early stage.

Israel had earlier instructed Palestinians to head to Rafah while fighting went on in the north of the strip at the start of its offensive.

“We will fight until complete victory and this includes a powerful action also in Rafah after we allow the civilian population to leave the battle zones,” Mr Netanyahu said on Thursday.

The latest satellite imagery, released by Maxar Technologies, may suggest that Egypt has decided to take precautionary measures as a result of the impending offensive.

In one image, dated 15 February, large areas of land close to the Rafah crossing into Gaza appear to have been cleared.

The work appears to have been completed in the last few days, as can be seen when comparing the landscape with an earlier image of the same area from five days ago.

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