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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Israel has ‘operational control’ over Gaza’s border with Egypt – IDF

The area had served as a “lifeline” for Hamas, the Israeli Army has said

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced that it has established complete control over Gaza’s border with Egypt. The statement comes amid growing pressure on Israel to halt its war on Hamas in Gaza, which is on track to enter its eighth month next week.

“We have now gained operational control over the Philadelphi Route,” IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said on Wednesday, referring to the border area by the Israeli government’s code name. He described the route as a “lifeline” used by Hamas to smuggle weapons and carry out attacks on Israelis.

Read more: Israeli tanks reportedly reach center of Rafah

Hagari said that dozens of rockets have been discovered near the Egyptian border and that Hamas had used the area in the past to fire at Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities. He also said that the IDF discovered around 20 tunnels built by Hamas under the southern Gaza city of Rafah as part of the militant group’s “human-shield strategy.”

“We have eliminated about 300 terrorists in Rafah so far,” Hagari said, adding that three Israeli soldiers were killed in the recent fighting.

Al-Qahera News quoted a “high-level Egyptian source” as denying the existence of tunnels along the Egyptian border. “Israel is using these allegations to justify continuing the operation on the Palestinian city of Rafah and prolonging the war for political purposes,” the source said, according to Al Jazeera.

International pressure has been mounting on the Jewish state to halt operations in the densely populated Palestinian enclave, especially in Rafah, which has been overcrowded with refugees fleeing northern Gaza in accordance with the IDF’s evacuation orders.

Read more: Israeli spy chief ‘threatened and stalked’ ICC prosecutor – Guardian

Although the IDF insists that it is only using high-precision weapons and thoroughly vets its targets, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted that the death of at least 45 civilians on Sunday was “a tragic mistake.” According to the army, shrapnel from a strike on senior Hamas commanders in Rafah ignited a nearby fuel tank and caused a large blaze at a refugee camp. The strike drew sharp condemnation from European countries, including France and Britain. The US, however, said that the tragedy would not lead to a shift in policy towards Israel.

Israel declared war on Hamas after the militant group carried out a surprise raid into southern Israeli cities on October 7, killing some 1,200 people and taking more than 200 hostages. Over 36,000 Palestinians have since been killed during Israel operations in Gaza, according to the local authorities.