The World Health Organization said Thursday that five trucks full of medical supplies are ready at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, with hopes that the aid could be delivered to Palestinian hospitals as early as Friday.
"Our trucks are loaded and ready to go," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters. The delivery of aid would be the first since Israel imposed a complete blockade on the Gaza Strip, following the October 7 attack by Hamas militants that killed over 1,400 Israelis.
Health authorities in the Gaza Strip said Thursday that at least 3,785 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli bombardment since the latest conflict erupted.
While aid continues to build up on the Egyptian side of the crossing, Egypt is not allowing Palestinians to cross from Gaza into the Egyptian Sinai peninsula.
Following a meeting on Wednesday with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi said such an exodus of people from Gaza would jeopardize Palestinian aspirations of statehood.
"The idea of displacement of Palestinians from the [Gaza] strip to Egypt simply means that something similar will also happen with the displacement of Palestinians from the West Bank to Jordan. And thus the idea of the Palestinian state that we are talking about — and the international community is talking about — remains unimplementable, because the land exists, but the people do not exist, and therefore I warn of the danger of this matter," el-Sissi told reporters in Cairo.
"The idea [of] transferring Palestinian citizens from the [Gaza] strip to Sinai very simply means that we are transferring the idea of resistance, the idea of fighting from the Gaza Strip to Sinai, and thus Sinai becomes a base for launching operations against Israel. In this case, Israel will have the right to defend itself and its national security, and as part of the response, it deals with Egypt and launches strikes on Egyptian lands," the president added.
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced from their land in past conflicts with Israel, with many settling in Egypt and other neighboring states. Many refugees have never been allowed to return — and the regions fear the wider implications of Palestinians being forced to flee Gaza, said analyst Chris Doyle, director of the London-based Council for Arab-British Understanding.
"[Egypt] does not want to land up hosting hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians in the Sinai, in a tented city — with really quite a clear agenda, certainly on the Israeli right, that that becomes the permanent solution," Doyle told VOA. "Palestinians and Egyptians are aware of this, are fearful that what happened to them in 1948 and 1967, when they fled in fear or were kicked out, will happen to them again. They're talking about a second Nakba, a catastrophe."
In Cairo, as in many cities across the Arab world and beyond, thousands of people have taken to the streets to denounce Israel's bombardment of Gaza.
Mahmoud Kamel, of the Egyptian Journalists' Syndicate, helped to organize a demonstration in the Egyptian capital Wednesday.
"[We] condemn the massacre, the war crime and the genocide carried out by the Zionist forces and the IDF against the civilian, unarmed people of Gaza, occupied West Bank and Jerusalem," Kamel told Reuters.
The protests pose a risk for President el-Sissi, said analyst Doyle. "We're seeing a lot of anger right now in Egypt about what's going on. So, [Egypt] will be wary of being seen to be somehow supporting Israeli actions at this moment, even though in private they are very critical of Hamas as well," he said.
Egypt's president seized power in a 2013 military coup, ousting the democratically-elected Muslim Brotherhood government.
"Let's not forget that that Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood," said Professor Yossi Mekelberg of London's Chatham House. "The more we see death among civilians, Palestinian civilians, the more people will go probably to the street. And it can really inflame the political situation in Egypt. And that's why it's actually in the Egyptian interest to mediate a cease-fire and mediate quickly."
While Egypt has dialogue with Hamas, Mekelberg said it is also able to talk to Israel.
"Strategically, there is great understanding between Israel and Egypt over the last 10 to 11 years. And the other side — for Israel — he is a convenient neighbor. Because what is the alternative? The Muslim Brotherhood? This is definitely not something that Israel would like. It's hard to see many other candidates to negotiate, to lead mediation between Hamas and Israel," Mekelberg told VOA.
For now, analysts say Israel does not appear ready for mediation from any regional power, as it seeks retribution and the eradication of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.