Israeli forces seize entire Gaza border with Egypt

Nidal al-Mughrabi |

Palestinians have fled Gaza’s Rafah amidst Israeli airstrikes.
Palestinians have fled Gaza’s Rafah amidst Israeli airstrikes.

Israeli forces have taken control of a buffer zone along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, the country’s military says, giving Israel effective authority over the Palestinian territory’s entire land border.

Israel also continued deadly raids on Rafah in southern Gaza despite an order from the International Court of Justice to end attacks on the city, where half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people had previously taken refuge.

In a televised briefing, chief military spokesperson Daniel Hagari said Israeli forces had gained “operational” control over the “Philadelphi Corridor”, using the Israeli military’s code name for the 14km corridor along the Gaza Strip’s only border with Egypt.

“The Philadelphi Corridor served as an oxygen line for Hamas, which it regularly used to smuggle weapons into the area of the Gaza Strip,” Hagari said. Hamas is the armed Palestinian group that governs the blockaded territory.

Hagari did not spell out what “operational” control referred to but an Israeli military official earlier said there were Israeli “boots on the ground” along parts of the corridor.

The border with Egypt along the southern edge was the Gaza Strip’s only land border that Israel had not controlled directly.

Palestinians fleeing from the southern Gaza city of Rafah
The World Court has said Israel had not explained how it would keep evacuees from Rafah safe. (AP PHOTO)

Earlier on Wednesday, Israel sent tanks on raids into Rafah. They had moved into the heart of Rafah for the first time on Tuesday despite an order from the top United Nations court to immediately halt the assault on the city.

The World Court said Israel had not explained how it would keep evacuees from Rafah safe and provide food, water and medicine. Its ruling also called on Hamas to immediately and unconditionally release hostages taken from Israel on October 7.

Rafah residents said Israeli tanks had pushed into Tel Al-Sultan in the west and Yibna and near Shaboura in the centre before retreating towards a buffer zone on the border with Egypt, rather than staying put as they have in other offensives.

“We received distress calls from residents in Tel Al-Sultan where drones targeted displaced citizens as they moved from areas where they were staying toward the safe areas,” the deputy director of ambulance and emergency services in Rafah, Haitham al Hams, said.

Palestinian health officials said 19 civilians had been killed in Israeli airstrikes and shelling across Gaza. Israel accuses Hamas militants of hiding among civilians, something Gaza’s ruling Islamist group denies.

Health Minister Majed Abu Raman urged Washington to pressure Israel to open the Rafah crossing to aid, saying there was no indication that Israeli authorities would do so soon and that patients in besieged Gaza were dying for lack of treatment.

Israeli tank near the Gaza border
Israel’s national security adviser says the war in Gaza will continue for the rest of 2024 at least. (AP PHOTO)

Fighting in Gaza will continue throughout 2024 at least, Israel’s National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said, signalling Israel was not ready to end the war as Hamas has demanded as part of a deal to exchange its hostages for Palestinian prisoners.

“The fighting in Rafah is not a pointless war,” Hanegbi said, reiterating that Israel aimed to end Hamas rule in Gaza and stop it and its allies attacking Israel.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Israel needed to craft a post-war plan for Gaza or risk lawlessness, chaos and a Hamas comeback in the enclave.

The US, Israel’s closest ally, reiterated its opposition to a major ground offensive in Rafah on Tuesday while saying it did not believe such an operation was under way.

More than 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s Gaza offensive, the enclave’s health ministry said.

Israel launched its war after Hamas-led militants attacked southern Israeli communities on October 7, killing around 1200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Reuters