Photo Credit: Ahmad Khateib
PA security officers loyal to Hamas ride along the Philadelphi corridor between Egypt and Gaza near Rafah, July, 1, 2007.

Last Thursday, Egypt’s semi-official daily Al Ahram reported, citing Al-Qahera News, that an Egyptian senior security official denied that Egypt made any new security arrangements with Israel regarding the Salah Al-Din Corridor, a.k.a. Philadelphi Corridor.

The Philadelphi Corridor spans 8.7 miles and encompasses the entire border region between Gaza and Egypt. Originating from the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, this strip of land was designated as a buffer zone. Israeli armed forces took control of and patrolled the corridor to prevent the flow of weapons and materials to Gaza Strip Arabs. It also enabled Israel to monitor via stringent checks the movement of people between Gaza and Egypt.


In 2005, after the IDF withdrew unilaterally from the Strip, Egypt took over the Egyptian side of the Philadelphi Corridor, striking a deal with Israel that permitted the Egyptian army to deploy 750 soldiers there. Those soldiers were supposed to continue preventing contraband goods and illegals from entering Gaza, which opened up one of the world’s most corrupt and lucrative black markets. As a result, Hamas was able to receive through the corridor advanced weapons such as RPGs and accurate missiles from Iran.

A whole war and tens of thousands of dead later, Israel is now determined not to let go of the Philadelphia Corridor again, and this, apparently, is not going down well with the Egyptians. The Egyptian concern is not that Israel will now be able to block illegal goods from falling into Hamas’s hands. Recent communication between high-ranking Egyptian officials and their Israeli counterparts has suggested that an influx of refugees from the Gaza Strip would be seen by Cairo as a red line that should not be crossed, and it would threaten the 45-year peace treaty between the two countries.

Since December, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has consistently stated that achieving the elimination of Hamas is contingent on gaining control over the southern border region of Gaza, which includes the Rafah crossing with Egypt, the crucial point of transit for both people and humanitarian aid into the blockaded enclave.

“The Philadelphi Corridor – or, to put it more correctly, the southern stoppage point of Gaza – must be in our hands. It must be shut,” Netanyahu said in late December. “It is clear that any other arrangement would not ensure the demilitarization that we seek.”

Kan 11 journalist Roy Kais revealed on Saturday that Egyptian sources received confirmation from Israeli officials that the operation across the Philadelphi Corridor shall not lead to the migration of Gazans into Egypt. Kais clarified that the Egyptian concerns arise from the effect of migration on its national security and are not objecting to the operation itself. He suggested that the wishful thinking Gush Katif resettlement conference in Jerusalem last Thursday frightened the Egyptians much more than the prospect of IDF soldiers along its border with Gaza.

Israel Hayom on Monday cited an Egyptian source that said, the Egyptians told Israel that “if even one Palestinian refugee crosses over – the peace agreement will be nullified.”

Another source said the message was less furious: “Even if one Egyptian refugee crosses over – the peace agreement will be suspended.”

Both sources Egyptian officials are both angry and concerned, seeing as any Israeli pundit with an operational laptop has been saturating the media with plans to relocate Gaza Arabs, and such a relocation must begin in the northern Sinai.

Sherif Mohyeldeen, a specialist on Egypt and regional cross-border issues, told The New Arab in January, “The Israeli pressure and Netanyahu’s statements over the Philadelphi Corridor are alarming to Egypt from different aspects, as from a popular level, this is a red line that Israel might risk bringing Egypt to the historical conflict again.”

“It would not be Israel’s first show of disregard for Egypt in this campaign,” wrote The New Arab’s Lara Gibson. “First Israel leaked plans to send Palestinian refugees from Gaza into Sinai, then bombed the Rafah Crossing to prevent inflows of aid. But Netanyahu’s plans would take the breach to a new level.”

So, in the end, it’s all about not hurting the Egyptians’ feelings.


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