Israel says it controls Gaza’s land border with Egypt

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Israel effectively extended its grip on the entire land border of the Gaza Strip after its military said it had “established operational control” of the strategically important buffer zone separating the enclave from Egypt.

The 9-mile-wide corridor, which Israel’s military refers to by a code name — the “Philadelphia Corridor” — was until Wednesday the only Gaza land border that Israel did not directly control. It comes as Israel escalates its assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, killing dozens of Palestinians.

“The Philadelphia Corridor served as an oxygen route for Hamas, which it routinely used to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip,” Israel’s chief military spokesman, Daniel Hagari, told a briefing. It spent eight months trying to destroy its October 7 attacks.

Hagari did not specify what the Israeli military meant by “operational control.” Managed by the Government of Egypt Al-Qahira News The broadcaster said there was no truth to Israeli claims that it had found 20 Hamas tunnels along the route.

The Israeli-occupied corridor has long been considered a demilitarized zone between Gaza and Egypt. Hamas has controlled the coastal area since seizing it in 2007. It created tunnels wide enough to transport vehicles and commercial construction materials to get around the blockade of Israel and Egypt. Israeli officials have also said Hamas used the tunnels to smuggle weapons used in its October 7 attacks in southern Israel.

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A recent investigation Middle East Eye News AgencyCiting classified military documents, Egyptian army engineers have destroyed more than 2,000 tunnels linking Gaza to Egypt since 2011.

Egypt has been battling local militants affiliated with the Islamic State group on its border for more than a decade. At one point, according to MEE’s investigation, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi ordered his armed forces to conduct a feasibility study on a proposal to dig a canal along the entire border of Gaza.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Wednesday that Israel’s seizure of the Philadelphia corridor was in line with what Israeli officials had explained to President Joe Biden’s team about plans for a “limited” operation in Rafah. “That includes moving on that sidewalk,” Kirby said.

Separately, National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi, a senior Israeli official close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told the country’s media on Wednesday that Israel’s war against Hamas could continue until the end of the year.

“We will have to fight for another seven months to confirm our victory and achieve what we define as the destruction of Hamas’s power and military capabilities,” Hanekbi said.

Negotiations aimed at an Israel-Hamas ceasefire and the return of hostages held by Hamas have stalled. These negotiations are being conducted through mediators from Egypt, Qatar and the United States

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