Israel in control of Philadelphia corridor, military says

Israel’s military says it has taken control of a strategic area along the Gaza-Egypt border, known as the Philadelphia Corridor.

An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman said some 20 tunnels used by Hamas to smuggle weapons into Gaza had been found there.

Egyptian television cited sources who denied this and said Israel was trying to justify its military operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

The announcement comes during a period of intense tensions with Egypt.

“In recent days, IDF troops established operational control in the Philadelphia corridor, on the border between Egypt and Rafah,” IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said on Wednesday.

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

He said troops were “investigating… and neutralizing” tunnels found in the area.

Hagari later said in a briefing with reporters that he could not be sure that all the tunnels crossed into Egypt, the New York Times reported.

The Philadelphia Corridor is a buffer zone, only about 100 meters (330 feet) wide in parts, that runs along the Gaza side of the 13-kilometer (8-mile) border with Egypt.

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

And a “high-level” Egyptian source, cited by Al-Qahera News, accused Israel of “using these accusations to justify the continuation of the operation in the Palestinian city of Rafah and prolonging the war for political purposes.”

Israel has insisted it must take Rafah to achieve victory in the war sparked by Hamas’ unprecedented attack on the country on October 7, during which some 1,200 people were killed and 252 others taken hostage.

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

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 their 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 in the war.

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

However, Egypt has maintained open channels with Hamas and has been acting as a mediator in intermittent indirect talks between Israel and the group to try to reach a ceasefire agreement and the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.

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