By Sarah El Safty
CAIRO (Reuters) -Work on providing medical relief for Palestinians from the Gaza Strip should be concentrated within the besieged enclave, Egypt’s foreign minister said on Thursday.
Egypt has received limited numbers of medical evacuees from Gaza through the Rafah crossing this month, most of whom have been taken to Egyptian hospitals for treatment. One group of cancer patients that crossed into Egypt from Gaza was flown to Turkey on Wednesday.
“We have to concentrate on getting medical facilities established inside of Gaza so it can be more accessible to Palestinians who are in need for medical assistance,” Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said at a briefing for foreign media in Cairo.
Attempts were being made to plan the evacuation of Al Shifa hospital in northern Gaza and that the transfer of some patients to Egypt was an option, a U.N. official said. Israeli forces entered the complex this week after days of fighting Hamas militants.
“If we have the ability to care for these people at Al Shifa hospital, we will not hesitate,” Shoukry said.
Shoukry also said there was no truth to reports that Israel and the United States had pressured Cairo to take in refugees from Gaza in return for debt cancellation, reiterating that Palestinians could not be displaced from their homeland.
“There’s absolutely no truth and no possibility of any form of displacement of Palestinians outside their homeland, their current location,” he said.
There was no link between long-standing European Union funding and cooperation in Egypt and Egypt’s role in the Gaza conflict, he added.
‘FOCUS ON ENDING WAR’
Egypt has repeatedly said it rejects any mass displacement of Palestinians from Gaza as Israel’s military campaign there has displaced hundreds of thousands of people to southern Gaza and a humanitarian crisis has deepened.
Asked about Egypt’s position on what should happen in the Gaza Strip after the war, Shoukry said the issue was being discussed on the basis that Gaza and the West Bank were an indivisible part of the occupied Palestinian territories and that the Palestinian Authority was legally responsible for administering them.
“The focus now is on ending the current conflict and stopping its civil suffering, then deliberating the appropriate international framework for any arrangements,” he said.
Egypt remained in continuous contact with Hamas and other international parties to try to secure the release of hostages captured by Hamas in its Oct. 7 attack on Israel, Shoukry said.
Egypt along with Qatar has been trying to mediate a deal for Israeli hostages to be freed in return for a truce in Gaza as well as the release of Palestinians from Israeli jails and an increase in aid for the enclave.
(Reporting by Sarah El Safty, writing by Aidan Lewis, editing by Sharon Singleton, William Maclean and Grant McCool)