The Importance of Gaza’s Philadelphi Corridor


The Philadelphi Corridor is a ribbon of land that runs along the Gaza Strip’s southern border. It is about eight miles long and 100 yards wide and stretches from Israel’s border to the Mediterranean Sea. It is the border strip that separates Gaza from Egypt.

Last week, Israel announced that its forces gained control of the corridor, thereby fulfilling one of its military goals against Hamas. That control is critical because Hamas dug tunnels beneath the strip — some wide enough for trucks — which were used to smuggle weapons and personnel into Gaza.

Reports regarding the 20 tunnels and 82 shaft complexes in and around the Philadelphi Corridor explain the significance of the IDF’s achievement. But the discovery of the underground maze of tunnels and shafts raises important questions about why the intricate transportation and smuggling system was permitted to be built and operated under the nose of Egypt’s army and Sinai police.

For years, Israeli security officials warned that Hamas operated cross-border tunnels from Gaza to Egypt which were being used to smuggle weapons into Gaza from military equipment warehouses in Iran, Syria and Lebanon. Egypt didn’t publicly acknowledge the existence of the tunnels and allowed them to operate. The IDF is now sealing or destroying many of those tunnels and shafts.

Egypt finds itself in a political and practical quandary in connection with Israel’s efforts in the Philadelphi Corridor area. On the one hand, Egypt joins the chorus of Arab nations and much of the international community in urging restraint by Israel and a cessation of any military activity in Gaza that could jeopardize civilians in that area. That includes opposition to any further Rafah-area incursions — including the IDF taking control of the Philadelphi Corridor zone.

But Egypt wants to prevent Gazans from crossing the border to seek refuge in its country and has made clear to Israel that any action by the IDF that will force Gazans to enter Egypt would threaten the historic peace agreement between Egypt and Israel that was signed in 1979.

Egypt sees Hamas as an adversary. Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist movement closely linked to the government that Egypt’s current president, Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, overthrew in 2013. The el-Sissi government has suppressed the Muslim Brotherhood since taking power and doesn’t want Hamas members migrating to Egypt or otherwise achieving a foothold in Egypt — as refugees or otherwise. Thus, even though Egypt has opened its borders to refugees in other regional conflicts, it won’t do so now.

Egypt is the only country other than Israel that borders Gaza. With Israel now in control of the entire corridor between Gaza and Egypt — including the connecting tunnels and shafts that had been used for transport and smuggling in the past — the entirety of Gaza is bordered by Israeli control or the sea. That border lock further isolates Hamas.

We hope that the added pressure of isolation will serve as a further inducement for Hamas leadership to seek a prompt resolution of the war effort with Israel and an immediate return of the hostages held captive since Oct. 7.


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