Israel ‘needs six months’ in Gaza-Egypt Philadelphi corridor

The Philadelphi Corridor is a strategic buffer zone between Gaza and Egypt [Israeli army/Getty-archive (2005)]

The Israeli military has estimated it needs to remain in a strategic buffer zone between southern Gaza and Egypt for around another half a year, Israeli media have reported.

The army seeks to stay in the Philadelphi (Salah Al-Din) corridor under the pretext of destroying tunnels, Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth said, with Palestinian fighters using tunnels to move around within Gaza and to smuggle weapons into the strip.

The Israeli army has continued its military operations in the Rafah area and near the Egyptian border, but despite using large machines and bulldozers to destroy tunnels, the assault has been marked by uncertainty and caution in light of a lack of sufficient intelligence about Hamas.

The military says it requires six more months to destroy the tunnel network, which it calls an “oxygen pipeline” for Hamas.

Hamas’s Rafah brigade is “known for its boobytrapping abilities”, Israeli military leaders said, according to the daily.

“It has boobytrapped many buildings and tunnel openings, so we are acting here with wisdom and caution, even if the work seems slow, to ensure the safety of our forces,” the leaders added.

Israeli military commanders in Rafah believe it will take eight weeks to destroy the 25 tunnels found so far in the Salah Al-Din corridor, and that identifying the locations of the remaining tunnels will take more time.

“In our estimation, this will continue for a period of at least six months, and will require our continued presence in the Philadelphi area because this is a slow and complex operation,” they added.

Israel and the US are reportedly working on formulating a plan for the next two months, with Israeli operations in Rafah likely to end in the next two or three weeks.

If a deal is not reached to return the captives held by Hams in Gaza before then, Israel will soon announce a transition to the third stage of the war, meaning the end of intensive fighting in the strip.

The military will reportedly tell the public and political leaders that it has destroyed the absolute majority of Hamas’s brigades, that the military from the group no longer exists, and that the situation on the ground in Gaza has totally changed.

Israel’s war on Gaza has so far killed at least 37,765 people since it began in October, according to the enclave’s health ministry.

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