Home News Israel says it has ‘tactical control’ of Gaza Strip bordering Egypt

Israel says it has ‘tactical control’ of Gaza Strip bordering Egypt

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The Israeli military said late Wednesday it had gained “tactical control” of the Philadelphia Corridor, a sensitive area along Gaza’s border with Egypt, in a move that could further strain already strained relations between Israel and Cairo.

Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said the area was “Hamas’ oxygen pipeline” and that the Palestinian militant group had used it to “regularly smuggle arms into the Gaza Strip.” Hamas also built tunnels near the Egyptian border, believing Israel would not dare launch an attack so close to Egyptian territory, he said.

Israeli officials say capturing the narrow strip of land, about nine miles long, is crucial to preventing Hamas from rearming itself through cross-border smuggling. “It has to be in our hands; it has to be closed,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters in December when asked if Israel still intended to seize the area.

An Israeli military official briefing reporters on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with military regulations, said troops had discovered at least 20 tunnels from Gaza to Egypt, some of which were discovered recently.

But briefing reporters late Wednesday, Admiral Hajari stopped short of claiming the tunnels crossed the border.

“I cannot say now that all these tunnels lead to Egypt,” he said. “We will check and pass on the intelligence” to Egypt. He added that Gaza’s tunnel shafts “are located near the Egyptian border, including inside buildings and homes.” “We will investigate and deal with every single one of them.”

Following Israel’s announcement, Egypt’s state-run al-Qaeda news channel quoted an unnamed senior official as saying that claims of tunnels along the border were “baseless.”

“These lies reflect the severity of the crisis facing the Israeli government,” the official said, adding that “Israel continues to try to spread lies about the situation on the ground of its troops in Rafah in order to cover up its military failures and find a way out of its political crisis.”

Egypt has Before Warning that Israel’s occupation of the border corridor would pose a “serious threat to Egyptian-Israeli relations.” On Monday, at least one Egyptian soldier was killed in a shooting with Israeli troops near the Rafah crossing; both sides said they were investigating the incident.

Israeli military officials said that Israeli troops are not everywhere in the Philadelphia corridor, but they now have the ability to effectively cut off Hamas’s ability to move through tunnels under and near the border. Admiral Hagari said that during this operation, Israeli troops destroyed a nearly mile-long underground tunnel network east of Rafah.

Egypt’s government disputes the cross-border tunnels, saying its army has cleared them in recent years.

“Israel is using these accusations to justify continuing the Rafah operation and prolonging the war in order to achieve political goals,” he said.

The official said a small number of Israeli troops were also deployed in the Tell Sultan area west of Rafah. This is the deepest Israeli advance into the city confirmed since it launched its ground offensive in Rafah in early May.

Egypt and Israel have traded blame for the continued closure of the Rafah crossing, a vital passage for delivering aid to Gaza and allowing the sick and wounded to leave. Israeli forces seized the crossing on May 6, and Israeli, Egyptian and Palestinian officials have been unable to reach an agreement to resume operations there.

Emmad Mekay and Johnson Rice Contributed reporting.

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