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Israel army takes Philadelphi Corridor on Egypt-Gaza border for 1st time since 2005

May 7, 2024 at 4:05 pm

An Egyptian army soldier patrols on foot on a parallel road to the Philadelphi corridor, a buffer zone that separates Egypt from Israel and the Palestinian Gaza Strip on 19 March 2007 [CRIS BOURONCLE/AFP via Getty Images]

For the first time since 2005, Israeli forces moved into the eastern side of the Philadelphi Corridor on the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, Anadolu Agency reports.

The Israeli army said, early Tuesday, that its 401st armoured brigade seized control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip.

A military statement said that Israeli forces were conducting a “sweep operation” in the areas of eastern Rafah it seized.

Army footage showed Israeli tanks rolling through the area and the Israeli flag raised on the Gaza side.

A spokesman of the Palestinian Border Crossing Authority confirmed that the border terminal was closed from the Palestinian side.

Egypt condemned Israel’s military control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah Crossing, terming the move a “dangerous escalation” that endangers the safety of more than one million Palestinians.

READ: Israel and Egypt still talking about Philadelphi Corridor and Rafah

It called on Tel Aviv to practice “maximum restraint” and for the international parties to intervene “to defuse the current crisis”.

Rafah is home to more than 1.5 million Palestinians, who have taken refuge from Israel’s ongoing war on the Gaza Strip.

Strategic route

The Philadelphi Corridor, also called the “Saladin Axis”, is a 14-kilometer (8.69-mile) long strip of land guaranteed by the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty.

It has been patrolled by Egyptian security forces after the Israeli army withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

Under the Camp David Accord between Egypt and Israel in 1979, the Philadelphi Corridor was classified as a Palestinian territory and classified as area “D” under the control of the Israeli army.

Under the Accord, no Egyptian armed forces were allowed to be stationed on the border area with Palestine, and the area was classified as “C” under which an Egyptian police force with light weaponry was allowed.

Israeli forces kept control of the Philadelphi Corridor until August 2005, when they withdrew from the area and allowed forces of the Palestinian Authority to take control under the supervision of European observers.

In 2007, the area came under the control of the Hamas group, pushing Israel to impose a siege on Gaza.

The area, however, is no longer empty as Palestinian urban construction sprawled to the area where Palestinian homes became closer and adjacent to the Egypt fence except for the areas around the Rafah Crossing and the area close to the beach.

Egyptian-Israeli relations

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has repeatedly called for Israel’s control of the border area between Gaza and Egypt, claiming that without controlling the Philadelphi Corridor, Israel will not be able to defeat Hamas in Gaza.

READ: Egypt Parliament: peace deal does not allow Israel to move within Philadelphi Corridor

Egyptian officials have warned that any Israeli control of the strategic route would jeopardise bilateral relations between Egypt and Israel.

“Any Israeli move to occupy the Philadelphi Corridor will lead to a serious threat to Egyptian-Israeli relations,” Diaa Rashwan, the head of Egypt’s State Information Service, warned in February.

Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ahmed Abu Zeid, also said in January that Cairo has complete control of its border with Gaza.

“These issues are governed by security and legal agreements, and any talk in this regard is subject to scrutiny and responded to with declared positions,” he added in televised statements, without further clarification.

The Israeli military control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah Crossing is the latest in a deadly offensive launched by Tel Aviv since 7 October, 2023, following a Hamas attack that killed nearly 1,200.

However, since then, it has been revealed by Haaretz that helicopters and tanks of the Israeli army had, in fact, killed many of the 1,139 soldiers and civilians claimed by Israel to have been killed by the Palestinian Resistance.

Nearly 34,800 Palestinians have since been killed in Gaza, the vast majority of whom have been women and children, and 78,100 others injured, according to Palestinian health authorities.

Seven months into the Israeli war, vast swathes of Gaza lay in ruins, pushing 85 per cent of the enclave’s population into internal displacement amid a crippling blockade of food, clean water and medicine, according to the UN.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which, in January, issued an interim ruling that ordered it to stop genocidal acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.

OPINION: What are Egypt’s response scenarios to an Israeli attack on Rafah?