I'm curious if there's an argument to be made that Egypt must reopen the Rafah crossing on their side (to allow humanitarian aid to flow into Gaza), even if they don't like who's controlling the other side of the crossing presently, i.e. the IDF.

On a quick search, the Geneva Convention doesn't seem to cover this case because Egypt is not an "occupying power", so has no obvious obligation towards the population of Gaza in that regard. (Also ICRC rule 55 is limited to "the parties of the conflict". Where 'conflict' means a military one, not just a diplomatic dispute, like Egypt is having, at the moment.) But maybe there is some other argument to be made?

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    Seeing the self-answer, are you trying to say that both Israel and Egypt are breaking the Geneva convention by hindering the aid flow? Sorry, but this looks very much like a push question to blame Egypt for the mess that is current Gaza.
    – quarague
    Commented May 23 at 5:39
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    I agree that it looks like a push question, @quarague. Egypt is not responsible for the mess in Gaza overall, of course. They cannot disclaim responsibility for their own stance on the Rafah crossing, however, notwithstanding what treaties they are party to or what those treaties may or may not require of them. Commented May 23 at 13:59
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    Are you asking specifically about Rafah, or a more general requirement to allow/facilitate humanitarian relief through whatever route is reasonable?
    – Stuart F
    Commented May 23 at 14:11
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    @quarague - It's very much the norm for countries to not be responsible for humanitarian crises in neighboring countries. It would be surprising if any legal or moral obligations to allow the transit of humanitarian aid were conditional on the country of transit being responsible for the situation in the first place. Not that Egypt is quite as free of blame as its politicians might like people to think—it's been effectively collaborating with Israel to enforce a blockade on the Gaza Strip for a long time now, excluding inconvenient refugees while benefitting from trade relations with Israel.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented May 23 at 18:27
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    Re. votes to close, Egypt's obligations wrt IHL has very little to do with who caused the aid problem in the first place, be it Hamas, Israel, or a combination of the two. Nor does it have that much to do with how popular or not cooperation with Israel is with the Egyptian population. Nor whether Egypt is wrong or not to cooperate with Israel in general, at least as far as its treaty (w. Israel) obligations require it to. Just let the question be what it claims to be: what is Egypt obligated to do wrt aid, just as if these were 3 other states, elsewhere??? No more, no less. Commented May 24 at 0:45

1 Answer 1


N.B. reading that ICRC page more carefully:

Additional Protocol I requires unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief, not only by the parties to the conflict but by each State party to the Protocol.

And Egypt has ratified it. N.B. there's a declaration that comes with their ratification, but I don't read any reservation in there in that respect (humanitarian aid). They even wrote a letter in 2014 saying that

We in particular attache great importance to the First Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, which established the bases for relations between the civilian population and the occupying power.

(The point of that letter being to condemn Israel.)

So, I guess an argument could be made that Egypt must cooperate with humanitarian relief efforts, even if they don't like it.

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    I should perhaps add here (although it's not strictly what I was asking) that the Egyptian FM more recently said things in a way that implies they think it's not safe for the aid trucks to cross the border at the moment, which is a somewhat different angle than just not liking who is controlling the other side. (Of course, Israel would probably dispute that it's not safe.) Commented May 23 at 14:34
  • Cooperate with humanitarian aid efforts (as formulated in the answer) and open a border crossing (as asked for in the question) might be different. Could the answer maybe add something about what humanitarian relief efforts would reasonably include? Commented Jun 2 at 7:45

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