Troops search Nasser hospital in southern Gaza: Israel-Hamas live updates

A wall is being built near the border of the war-torn Gaza Strip in Egypt's desert, but no one is talking much about it.

Satellite images, photos and videos reviewed by The New York Times show a massive bulldozing of land and construction of a wall in the buffer zone between Egypt and Rafah. to invade.

Building a wall along the Egyptian border with Rafah is seen in this satellite image.debt…Maxar Technologies

Satellite images show newly graded land south of the Rafah border crossing. Analyzing satellite images, Feb. Work started on 5th.

But the Egyptian government, which is concerned about Gazans displaced by the fighting between Israel and Hamas in Rafah, has refused to discuss the new construction. A government spokesman would only refer to government statements in recent weeks highlighting the strengthening of the border.

It is not clear whether the structure will be intended to control the Gazan population across the border, but if it is used as such, it will represent a major reversal of Egypt's position.

A contractor and engineer who was interviewed and provided photos to The Times said he was commissioned by the Egyptian military to build a five-meter-high concrete wall — about 16 feet — to enclose five square kilometers of land. on the site. They said that the work started on February 5 and the construction of the wall started two days ago.

The contractor and engineer spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. Egyptian authorities strictly control information coming from the border area.

Since October, a Hamas-led offensive on Israel has led to a massive Israeli military response in Gaza, with Egypt repeatedly rejecting any suggestion to take in some Gazans who fled air and ground attacks in areas near the border in Rafah. Egyptian officials fear the influx of refugees poses a security risk, and many Palestinians suspect Israel will not allow people fleeing Gaza to return once the war ends.

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In recent weeks, uprooted Gazans have been crammed into Rafah, on the border with Egypt, struggling to survive in tents and makeshift shelters with scarce access to food and other vital necessities, aid workers say. A Gazan official in Rafah, Ahmad al-Saufi, estimated that 100,000 displaced Palestinians were in camps pressed against the border.

At a meeting convened by Egypt on Thursday, Martin Griffiths, the United Nations' top aid chief, said “we have before our eyes the possibility of some sort of Egyptian nightmare spillover.”

Like Israel, Egypt has sealed its borders with Gaza and has been adding fortifications along its border in recent months.

A day after the October 7 Hamas-led attack on Israel, North Sinai Governorate – where the work was captured on satellite images – was taking place. A statement The governor held an emergency meeting with senior local officials “to examine the potential of schools, housing facilities and vacant land to be used as shelters if needed.”

But on Thursday, North Sinai's deputy governor, Major General Hisham El-Kholi, said he was not aware of any new construction. And the governor of North Sinai, Major General Mohamed Shousha, did not respond to phone calls seeking comment.

Ahmed Essad, head of emergency operations at the Egyptian Red Cross, which coordinates Gaza-related humanitarian aid work along the border, said he had not heard of the plan.

Nick Cumming-Bruce Report from Geneva contributed, and Adam Rascon From Jerusalem.

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