Netanyahu: Move is one possibility, no decision made

Israel said to tell Egypt of plan to take control of border corridor with Gaza

According to Wall Street Journal, Jerusalem plans to reassert control of Philadelphi Route, which it has not controlled since 2005

File: An Egyptian armored vehicle patrols on the Egyptian side of the border as bulldozers work on the Gaza side to create a buffer zone, in Rafah, Wednesday, June 28, 2017 (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
File: An Egyptian armored vehicle patrols on the Egyptian side of the border as bulldozers work on the Gaza side to create a buffer zone, in Rafah, Wednesday, June 28, 2017 (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Israel has informed Egypt of plans to launch a military operation to take control of the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.

Citing Israeli and Egyptian officials, the report said such an operation was expected to see Israel take the Rafah border crossing and station forces along the so-called Philadelphi Corridor separating Egypt and Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last month that the Philadelphi Corridor, which runs for 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) all along the Gaza-Egypt border, “has to be in our hands” in order to ensure that Gaza is and remains demilitarized, to prevent weapons from being smuggled through tunnels into the coastal enclave.

Israel controlled the Corridor until it evacuated Gaza in 2005.

The Wall Street Journal said the operation has not yet gotten the all-clear from Israeli leaders, and the timing will depend on talks with the Egyptian government as the latter works to broker a new hostage deal between Israel and Hamas.

Israeli officials have reportedly sought to allay Egyptian concerns that such an operation could result in an accidental spillover of fighting to Egypt, or that it could breach the limits on positioning troops in the area that are part of the 1979 peace treaty between the countries.

The newspaper said Egypt had rejected an Israeli proposal to have Israeli troops conduct joint patrols on the Egyptian side of the border, but that Cairo had said it was working to install barriers and increase surveillance in the area to tackle Israeli security concerns.

“Israel does not want to be responsible for Gaza in the long term, but the question is how do you make sure that Gaza stays demilitarized?” an unnamed senior Israeli military official was quoted as saying. “It’s a real dilemma. The only way to control a geographic area is to control what’s going in and out.”

“Right now in the near term, in the next few decades, Israel needs to control the borders because of the security issues,” the official added.

File: An Egyptian armored vehicle patrols on the Egyptian side of the border, seen from the south of the Gaza Strip, Thursday, July 2, 2015 (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Asked about the reports Saturday during a press conference, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu replied that this was “one possibility for what I call a southern barrier.”

“We will not end the war without closing this breach. Otherwise we will not eliminate Hamas, we will not demilitarize Gaza and then more weapons will enter through this southern breach. Obviously we need to to close it. There are several options and we have not yet made a decision,” he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Kirya military base in January 13, 2024. (YouTube screenshot; used in accordance with clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

On Thursday, Channel 13 reported that a senior IDF officer had returned to Israel from Egypt after holding talks relating to the ongoing war, and had asked Cairo to agree to Israeli presence on the Philadelphi Corridor after the war.

Citing unnamed senior security figures, the network said that the discussions in Egypt dealt with increasing the amount of humanitarian aid that enters Gaza, as well as the future of the Corridor.

Egyptian lawmaker Mustafa Bakri roundly criticized Netanyahu’s comments on controlling the Philadelphi Corridor as an attack on Egyptian sovereignty and a violation of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.

After reports that Jerusalem and Cairo were cooperating on the matter of the Philadelphi Route, an unnamed Egyptian government official told Egyptian media outlets on Monday that the reports were “categorically false.”

During a summit in the Jordanian city of Aqaba on Wednesday, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi, along with Jordan’s King Abdullah and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, warned against any Israeli reoccupation of the Gaza Strip after the war, although he didn’t make any direct reference to the Philadelphi Corridor.

A statement released by the three leaders at the end of the summit confirmed “a complete rejection of any attempt to reoccupy parts of Gaza, and the need to enable its people to return to their homes.”

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