The imminent seizure of the “Philadelphi Corridor” by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) along the Gaza Strip border with Egypt underscores the critical importance of controlling this key passageway.
The corridor, stretching approximately 14 km along the entirety of the Gaza-Egypt border, has become a highway for weapon smuggling from Egypt into the hands of Hamas.
Despite Egypt’s denial of the existence of smuggling tunnels beneath the corridor, security officials argue that the Philadelphi Corridor serves as the primary route for weapons bound for Hamas.
Both Egypt and Hamas vehemently oppose Israel’s control over the corridor.
Controlling the “Philadelphi Corridor” effectively severs the Gaza Strip’s only land connection to Egypt, potentially blocking subterranean movement between the two regions through a network of tunnels.
The corridor’s control translates to dominance over the Rafah crossing, the sole border crossing linking the Gaza Strip to the Arab world and crucial for the international travel of senior Hamas officials.
While Israel possesses intelligence on these tunnels, Egypt persists in denying their existence, claiming to have destroyed them years ago. Recent requests by Israel to have Egyptian military units relocate away from the Gaza Strip border for IDF control have been rebuffed by Egypt.
Currently, the IDF oversees the northern and eastern borders and the western coast of the Gaza Strip.
Gaining control of the southern border through the “Philadelphi Corridor” would complete the encirclement of the Gaza Strip, a strategic move with implications for the demilitarization of the region after the conflict.
Hamas heavily relies on the “Philadelphi Corridor” for weapons smuggling via underground tunnels. Even with IDF control, the corridor is expected to remain a constant target for terrorist attacks.
Reports from Gaza indicate that IDF forces attempted advances toward the corridor on December 23, 2023, but were repelled by Hamas. The Israeli Air Force also targeted Hamas positions along the corridor.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly declared Israel’s intention to assert control over the “Philadelphi Corridor.” Israel appears resolute in this decision, emphasizing its commitment to encircle the Gaza Strip completely.
Despite Egypt’s opposition, it is anticipated that the country will eventually have to acquiesce to Israel’s position, particularly given the extensive weapons smuggling carried out by Hamas through the Corridor in recent years.
The security protocol between the two nations designates Egypt to secure the corridor with a force of 750 soldiers equipped to combat terrorism and smuggling. This responsibility appears to have fallen short in recent years.