Photo Credit: Yossi Zamir /Flash90
Gazans and Egyptians roam freely near the Philadelphi Corridor, September 13, 2005.

Sky News Arabia has obtained new details about the Philadelphi Corridor crisis, which sparked tensions in the relations between Israel and Egypt recently, against the backdrop of the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip.

The Philadelphi Corridor is the Israeli code name for a narrow strip of land, 8.699 miles long, located along the entire border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.

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Following Israel’s unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005, the Philadelphi Accord with Egypt was concluded, which authorized Egypt to deploy 750 border guards along the route to patrol the border on Egypt’s side. The Palestinian Authority controlled the Gaza side, until the 2007 takeover by Hamas. The joint control over the Rafah Border Crossing was entrusted with preventing the movement of illegal materials (including weapons and ammunition) and people between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. Arab smugglers built smuggling tunnels under the Philadelphi Corridor to move the contraband and illegals into the Gaza Strip, and less than 20 years later, Hamas attacked thousands of innocent Israelis on October 7, 2023, having used the smuggled contraband as well as billions in aid from Qatar and European countries to create a formidable terrorist army in an incredibly complex network of underground tunnels.

According to sources in Israel, the Netanyahu government informed Egypt of its intentions to enter the Rafah area and the Philadelphi axis in southern Gaza, stipulating that it “will not remain in the region permanently.”

According to Sky News Arabia sources, “The matter angered the Egyptian side, which responded with strong opposition. Talks began between the two parties, during which the Israeli side tried to calm Egypt down and pledged never to displace the Palestinians toward Egyptian lands.”

Meetings to discuss the issue were set between the two parties, according to Sky News Arabia, and in his press conference Saturday night, PM Netanyahu asserted that “relations with Egypt are sound, and every country has its interests.”

But the relations between Egypt and Israel are not sound these days. Last week, News13 reported that Netanyahu’s office approached Egyptian President Al-Sisi’s office several times to arrange a phone conversation and was refused.

It didn’t help matters that Israel accused Egypt of allowing Hamas to smuggle weapons through the Gaza border. A senior Israeli military official stated, “Egypt has not done a good job of checking what’s flowing into Gaza.” Needless to say, Egyptian officials were deeply wounded and rejected this accusation.

DON’T SEND ME YOUR HUDDLED MASSES

As the Wall Street Journal put it on Saturday, it all comes down to the Egyptian’s existential fear of a million Gazans bursting through their border fortifications and setting up a huge tent city on the Sinai Mediterranean shore.

“Egypt warns Israel against pushing large numbers of Palestinians out of Gaza and into the Sinai Peninsula as it pursues its war against Hamas,” report the WSJ’s Jared Malsin and Summer Said, noting that “a slump in Suez Canal traffic is worsening the situation.”

This year, Egypt’s Suez Canal transit revenue has seen a decrease of approximately 40% compared to the corresponding period last year, accompanied by a 30% decline in ship transit traffic, as reported by the Suez Canal Authority. Should the crisis persist, the financially challenged nation could face the loss of billions of dollars.

The only light in Egypt’s economic dark tunnel is its concession to export Israeli natural gas to Europe. The Egyptians recently experienced what could happen to their faltering economy without Israel: on October 9, 2023, Israel suspended gas production at Chevron’s Tamar field, fearing Hamas’s rockets, and as a result, the Egyptian cabinet revealed that gas imports had dropped to zero from 800 million cubic feet per day, exacerbating the country’s power generation deficit, leading to months of power cuts, and suspending Egypt’s gas exports.

According to Sky News Arabia, Israel will likely remove the Palestinian Authority officials from the Philadelphi Corridor, and station the IDF along the southeastern corner of Gaza which is adjacent to both Israel and Egypt, toward the Mediterranean Sea. This should mean the end of underground supplies from Egypt to Hamas.

It also means that Israel would hold the keys to the border crossing, enabling it to encourage hundreds of thousands of Gazans from the dense streets of Rafah to the open desert over in Egypt.

Israel could teach Al-Sisi a lesson in loving his fellow Arabs.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.