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Reports Indicate Rising Tensions Between Egypt and Israel Over Philadelphi Corridor

January 31, 2024
Photo credit: Al-Ahram.

Israeli media sources on Saturday, 27 January, disclosed that Israel has conveyed to Egypt its intention to enter the Palestinian side of Rafah and the Philadelphi Corridor in southern Gaza. 

The reports indicate that Israel has emphasized the temporary nature of this entry, asserting that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) “will not remain in the area permanently.”

Sky News Arabia reported that Egypt is strongly opposed to any attempts by Israel to establish control over the border region between Egypt and Gaza. Al-Ahram, citing an official source, has also refuted reports suggesting collaboration between Egypt and Israel concerning the Philadelphi Corridor, a narrow passage between Egypt and Gaza.

The report indicates that Israel has reiterated its intention to not remain in the area for “a long time.” However, it also highlights that meetings between the two sides have been agreed upon to further discuss the matter. 

This development follows recent discussions among Israeli leaders regarding the possibility of seizing control of the Philadelphi Corridor, a 14-kilometer route along Gaza’s southern border.

In a press conference on Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented on the relations with Egypt, stating that every country pursues its interests. Despite acknowledging the divergence of interests among nations, he emphasized that relations with Egypt were “sound,” underscoring the understanding that each country operates in alignment with its own set of interests.

According to The New Arab, Netanyahu’s comments were perceived as downplaying Egyptian opposition to the plans. This statement coincided with Israeli media reports suggesting that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi had reportedly declined to receive a phone call from Netanyahu.

Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal reported that Israel had informed Egypt of its plans to control the Philadelphi Corridor, citing allegations that Hamas was involved in smuggling weapons through underground tunnels. In response, Diaa Rashwan, the chief of the Egyptian State Information Service, refuted these allegations, categorizing them as baseless “lies.”

Israeli forces say they have imposed a punishing siege on the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, where intense battles between Palestinian groups and Israel’s army are taking place.

The Philadelphi Corridor, spanning 14 kilometers in length and 100 meters in width, serves as a buffer zone along the Egypt-Gaza border, established by the 1979 Egypt–Israel peace treaty. Since Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, Egyptian security forces have been responsible for patrolling this corridor. Extending from the Mediterranean Sea in the north to the Karm Abu Salem crossing in the south, it runs along the Egyptian border with the Gaza Strip. 

In October, Egypt cautioned Israel against any military operations in this narrow route. However, a few months later, in late December, Netanyahu sparked controversy by stating in a press conference that the control of this narrow route “has to be in our hands.”

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