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Israel, Gaza tensions: Why Egypt helps maintain the blockade

Simmering tensions – due in part to a long-standing blockade of the territory – are escalating toward another Israel Gaza standoff. Often overlooked is Egypt's role in the blockade.

Palestinian women wait to cross to Egypt through the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, March 1.

Eyad Baba/AP

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Israel today threatened a second Gaza war if Palestinian militants do not cease the rocket attacks that have increased as discontent simmers over a long-standing blockade. But while Gazans, supported by international human rights activists, have lambasted Israel for the blockade, often overlooked is the accessory role of neighboring Egypt.

Egypt has also kept its border with Gaza largely closed, despite the intense public anger it arouses here and throughout the Muslim world.

The move is motivated by regional rivalries and international alliances, say analysts. Egypt doesn’t want to take the pressure off Israel, which it holds responsible for running Gaza. At the same time, Egypt has an interest in weakening militant Islamist group Hamas, which rules the territory. And many suspect that US pressure plays into Egypt's participation in the blockade, though Egypt denies this.

Emad Gad, an analyst at the government-funded Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, boils the issue down to Egypt’s opposition to Hamas.


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