Israel extends control over Gaza’s entire land border

The Israeli military says it has taken control of a strategically important buffer zone along the Gaza-Egypt border known as the Philadelphia Corridor, meaning it now controls Gaza’s entire land border.

A spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said about 20 tunnels used by Hamas to smuggle weapons into Gaza were found in the area.

Egyptian television quoted sources denying this and saying Israel was trying to justify its military operation in the city of Rafah in southern Gaza.

The IDF has continued its offensive in Rafah and elsewhere in Gaza, saying airstrikes have hit more than 50 “terrorist targets” in the past day.

The IDF said three Israeli soldiers were killed and three others seriously injured Wednesday in a trapped building in Rafah. Two other soldiers were killed in a car attack near the city of Nablus in the occupied West Bank. Security forces are searching for the driver.

IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Wednesday that forces have “established operational control” of the Philadelphia Corridor.

He described the area as a “lifeline” for Hamas, through which the group “regularly smuggles weapons into the Gaza Strip”.

He said the army was “investigating.. and neutralizing” tunnels found in the area.

The New York Times reported that Mr. Hagari later said in a briefing with reporters that he could not be sure that all the tunnels went through Egypt.

The Philadelphia Corridor is a buffer zone, just about 100m (330ft) wide, running along the Gaza side of the 13km (8 mile) border with Egypt. Gaza’s only other land border is with Israel itself.

Egypt previously said it had destroyed cross-border tunnels, making any arms smuggling impossible.

And a “high-ranking” Egyptian source quoted by Al-Qahera News accused Israel of “using these accusations to justify continuing operations in the Palestinian city of Rafah and prolonging the war for political purposes”.

Israel insists that it must bring Rafah to victory in the war sparked by Hamas’s unprecedented attack on the country on October 7, which left some 1,200 people dead and 252 others taken hostage. believe.

According to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, at least 36,170 people have been killed across Gaza since the start of the conflict.

Tensions between Egypt and Israel have increased since Israeli forces took control of the Gazan side of the Rafah crossing three weeks ago as part of an offensive against Hamas.

Earlier this week, an Egyptian soldier was killed in an incident involving Egyptian and Israeli troops in the border area near Rafah.

Egypt is a strong supporter of the Palestinians and has condemned Israel’s military campaign in Gaza and Israel’s killing of thousands of civilians during the war.

Like Israel, Egypt has maintained a border blockade with Gaza since Hamas came to power in 2006. Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned as a terrorist group in Egypt.

However, Egypt kept channels open with Hamas and acted as an intermediary in indirect negotiations between Israel and the group to try to reach a ceasefire and release Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.


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