Defense Update News:

Israel Should Seize Control of the Rafah 'Philadelphi' Corridor

David Eshel

The international clock is ticking by the hour calling for a cease fire, which according to the one-sided UN resolution 1860, will probably only be adhered to, sooner or later by Israel, as Hamas is not formally addressed… A unilateral cease-fire can have dangerous consequences, not only in Israel, but for the entire Sunni Muslim community throughout the Middle East. Hamas will declare a sounding victory over the Israeli army, just as did Hezbollah at the end of the 2006 Lebanon Campaign. This will give the Tehran Mullahs full satisfaction for their weapons investment, smuggled into Gaza through the Rafah tunnels, right under the noses of the Egyptian guards.

But there is one way to stop this disaster from happening: Israel must use the time left, before the UN issues its definite and order its troops to seize again the strategic Philadelphi Corridor along the Rafah-Egyptian border and establish an hermetical blocking line, stopping all future weapons smuggling operations through Rafah's subterranean tunnel city, which is the sole lifeline sustaining Hamas' military operations(more...)

With Israel once again in full control of this sensitive border line, the Hamas weapons arsenal will soon dwindle and cease to be a danger to Israel and for that matter to Egypt as well. To be effective, a fully sterile security line of about 1000 meters must be established and held by a strong military force on both sides of the international border.

The problem is that this particular area houses over 50,000 Palestinians, mostly refugees, who will have to be relocated to a new city, perhaps built, ironically at the former evacuated Israeli settlements, not far away to the north.

That such a plan could be in the cards may signal a large-scale air operation already underway for several nights. The Israeli air force were dropping leaflets in the area along the Philadelphi corridor border with Egypt calling for Rafah civilians to leave their homes, or take the risk of being hurt. According to reports, some 30,000 people already took flight. The air force has then bombed the Philadelphi Corridor and surrounding buildings for several nights. Wether this could be in preparation of a new offensive is questionable, as the UN Resolution may cause the top Israeli leadership to hesitate in taking such action.

There is however a strong legal point for such action feasible, which is often overlooked by analysts. According to the 1994 signed Gaza-Jericho Agreement, a so-called "Pink Line" was demarcated along the Egyptian Sinai border to become the "Military Installation Area" under full control of Israel, acting as buffer zone to prevent unauthorized infiltration. It received its official Philadelphi designation from the original IDF military random code map, in which this route was displayed.

Unfortunately, due almost criminal shortsightedness by the Israeli negotiators, ignoring professional military caution, the "Pink Line" was demarcated, stretching 8500 meters from south-west to north-east hugging the Egypt-Israel international border, but with only a mere 60-100 meter wide stretch under Israeli sovereign territory. Such a ridiculously narrow area, left to IDF control, represented a military nightmare. To repeat such a dangerous mistake would be criminal.

If Operation Cast Lead be successful, Israel must again control the Philadelphi Corridor and fully supervise any movement over the Egyptian Sinai border. Hamas must not be allowed, under any circumstances, to restore its weapons arsenal, which Iran is already planning to restock, with even more lethal ordnance, just as it did two years ago with Hezbollah.