Israel seizes Gaza's border with Egypt, presses on with Rafah raids

AFP

Israeli forces have taken control of a buffer zone along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, giving Israel effective authority over the Palestinian territory's entire land border.

Israel also continued deadly raids on Rafah in southern Gaza despite an order from the International Court of Justice to end attacks on the city, where half of Gaza's 2.3 million people had previously taken refuge.

In a televised briefing, chief military spokesperson Daniel Hagari said Israeli forces had gained "operational" control over the "Philadelphi Corridor", using the Israeli military's code name for the 14 km-long corridor along the Gaza Strip's only border with Egypt.

"The Philadelphi Corridor served as an oxygen line for Hamas, which it regularly used to smuggle weapons into the area of the Gaza Strip," Hagari said. Hamas is the armed Palestinian group that governs the blockaded territory.

Hagari did not spell out what "operational" control referred to but an Israeli military official earlier said there were Israeli "boots on the ground" along parts of the corridor.

The border with Egypt along the southern edge was the Gaza Strip's only land border that Israel had not controlled directly.

Earlier on Wednesday, Israel sent tanks on raids into Rafah. They had moved into the heart of Rafah for the first time on Tuesday despite an order from the top United Nations court to immediately halt the assault on the city.

The World Court said Israel had not explained how it would keep evacuees from Rafah safe and provide food, water and medicine. Its ruling also called on Hamas to immediately and unconditionally release hostages taken from Israel on October 7.

Rafah residents said Israeli tanks had pushed into Tel Al-Sultan in the west and Yibna and near Shaboura in the centre before retreating towards a buffer zone on the border with Egypt, rather than staying put as they have in other offensives.

Health Minister Majed Abu Raman urged Washington to pressure Israel to open the Rafah crossing to aid, saying there was no indication that Israeli authorities would do so soon and that patients in besieged Gaza were dying for lack of treatment.

Fighting in Gaza will continue throughout 2024 at least, Israel's National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said, signalling Israel was not ready to end the conflict as Hamas has demanded as part of a deal to exchange its hostages for Palestinian prisoners.

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