Jan 29, 2024 - World

Scoop: Israeli spy chief visits Cairo amid Egypt-Israel tensions

The Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip is pictured from the Palestinian side in the southern part of the Palestinian territory on January 29, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

The Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

Israeli Shin Bet security agency director Ronen Bar visited Cairo and met with his Egyptian counterpart, Abbas Kamel, on Monday amid tensions between Israel and Egypt over the war in Gaza and the possibility of the Israeli military expanding its operation to the Palestinian city of Rafah on the border with Egypt, two Israeli sources said.

Why it matters: Egypt is extremely concerned about the growing humanitarian crisis along its border with Gaza. More than 1 million Palestinians — the majority of whom were displaced during the war — are concentrated in Rafah.

  • Cairo fears a military operation in Rafah, especially along the Philadelphi Corridor — the narrow strip of land from the Palestinian side to Egypt — could create a massive flow of Palestinian refugees into Egypt's Sinai.
  • Egypt has warned that such a scenario would lead to a rupture in its relations with Israel, which have already been in crisis mode since the beginning of the war.

Behind the scenes: Bar, who participated together with the Egyptian spy chief in the hostage talks in Paris on Sunday, traveled to Cairo to discuss non-hostages related issues, the Israeli officials said.

  • The issues included the situation along the Philadelphi Corridor and how Egypt and Israel can work together to prevent weapons smuggling into Gaza that would enable Hamas to rearm.
  • They also discussed potential plans for after the war. Kamel met with his Saudi, Jordanian and Palestinian counterparts in Riyadh roughly 10 days ago to discuss how a revitalized Palestinian Authority could take part in governing a post-war Gaza, as Axios previously reported.
  • The Shin Bet declined to comment. Egyptian officials didn't immediately respond.

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