President Sisi has been criticised for allowing few refugees through, but housing large numbers would be a big political risk

Egypt has been caught in a dilemma for weeks about opening the Rafah crossing into Gaza: wanting to help the most seriously injured Palestinians leave, but adamantly refusing to contemplate a surge of Palestinian refugees into the Sinai peninsula. “We are prepared to sacrifice millions of lives to ensure that no one encroaches upon our territory,” Egypt’s prime minister, Mostafa Madbouly, said earlier this week.

The negotiations over the release of wounded Palestinians and some foreign nationals, largely overseen by Qatar, have been inextricably linked to the flow of aid from Egypt into Gaza over the same crossing. The US president, Joe Biden, negotiated a passage for aid through Rafah, but levels are low compared to what is needed. On Wednesday the UN humanitarian coordinator, Martin Griffiths, again called for Israel to reopen Kerem Shalom, the crossing it controls at the southern tip of Gaza.

Some have criticised Egypt and its authoritarian president, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, for not opening his borders to the Palestinians since the Israeli bombardment began in response to the murderous Hamas rampage of 7 October.

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