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Egypt tribal group calls for 'alternative crossing' after Israeli invasion of Rafah

Arab Tribes Union asks the Egyptian presidency to impose sovereignty after the gateway to Gaza was overrun and closed
Ibrahim al-Organi (C) is the head of the newly established Arab Tribes Union (Facebook/Alorgani)
Ibrahim al-Organi (C), the head of the newly established Arab Tribes Union, attends event in Sinai across border with Israel, announcing the creation of the union (Facebook/Alorgani)

An Egyptian tribal group with close ties to the military on Monday urged the presidency to open a new crossing with Gaza after Israel's invasion of Rafah and control of its border crossing.

"We call for immediately creating an alternative crossing until Israel leaves the Rafah land crossing," the Arab Tribes Union (ATU) said in a statement, quoted by the Saudi al-Hadath channel on Monday.

"We call on the Egyptian presidency to act immediately to secure the Egyptian borders with Gaza."

Last week, the Israeli military said it has taken "operational control" of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing, the only point of exit and entry between Gaza and Egypt. The Israeli flag was raised on flag poles at the crossing, while the Palestinian flag was pulled to the ground. 

The development has raised questions on whether any coordination took place between Israel and Egypt before the attack and on Israel's breach of the 1979 peace treaty that designated the border crossing area as demilitarised. The operation has also blocked the entry of vital aid to the starving population of Gaza, since the crossing had been the only land crossing to Gaza not directly controled by Israel prior to the invasion. 

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The ATU called on the presidency to "contribute to obliging Israel to leave the Rafah border crossing and to impose Egyptian sovereignty".

The ATU is an alliance of five Egyptian Bedouin tribes, which was launched at a celebration on 1 May with the stated goal of uniting tribes to support the Egyptian state against security threats.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was declared its “honorary president”. It includes the Union of Sinai Tribes (UST), a paramilitary group that has fought alongside the Egyptian army against militants in North Sinai over the past decade.

Both the UST and the ATU are led by the influential pro-Sisi businessman and militia leader, Ibrahim al-Organi

Organi has been under scrutiny since the Israeli war on Gaza began, due to the exorbitant fees his companies charge Palestinians fleeing the war to Egypt, and the thousands of dollars aid trucks have to pay to enter the enclave.

One of his firms, Hala, may have earned at least $118m from Palestinian refugees in the past three months, Middle East Eye has revealed.

Organi is also the owner of the construction company, Sons of Sinai, which is the main contractor hired by the Egyptian state for housing projects in the peninsula.

The official spokesperson of Organi's ATU is pro-government journalist and MP Mustafa Bakry, who has said that the union should be considered as “a faction of the Egyptian army”, sparking widespread concern about the formation of a vague paramilitary entity that operates parallel to the Egyptian army.

MEE reported earlier this month that Egypt’s military intelligence has recently held meetings with Sinai tribes to discuss their potential role in the event of an Israeli invasion of Rafah in southern Gaza.

Following its launch, the ATU has issued several media statements commenting on the Rafah invasion and calling on the international community and the United Nations Security Council to intervene to prevent Israel's advance. 

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