Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Israeli military says it has seized strategic corridor along Gaza-Egypt border

Palestinians fleeing from the southern Gaza city of Rafah during an Israeli ground and air offensive in the city (AP Photo/Jehad Alshrafi)
Palestinians fleeing from the southern Gaza city of Rafah during an Israeli ground and air offensive in the city (AP Photo/Jehad Alshrafi)

Israel’s military said that it has seized control of a strategic corridor that runs along the length of Gaza’s border with Egypt, near the city of Rafah, where Israeli forces have been fighting recently.

The capture of the area, known as the Philadelphi corridor, gives Israel control over a strip of land it says is awash in smuggling tunnels that have funnelled weapons and other goods for Hamas — even under a yearslong blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt.

The move comes as Israel has deepened its incursion into the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of people seeking shelter from fighting elsewhere had been displaced, and where intensifying violence in recent days has killed dozens of Palestinians.

Israel Palestinians
Israeli soldiers work on a tank near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

The capture of the corridor could complicate Israel’s relations with Egypt, which has previously complained over Israel’s advance toward its border, including when Israel took over the Rafah border crossing, the only crossing between Gaza and Egypt.

Egypt has said that any increase in troops in the strategic corridor would violate the countries’ 1979 peace accord.

An Israeli military official said Israel had notified Egypt of the takeover.

He said some 20 tunnels, including some that were previously unknown to Israel, had been found during the operation, as well as 82 access points to those tunnels.

“It means we can control and we have the ability to cut off the oxygen line that Hamas has used for replenishing and movement,” the official said.

The corridor is part of a larger demilitarised zone along both sides of the entire Israel-Egypt border.

Israel Palestinians Life in the Tents
A tent camp housing Palestinians displaced by the Israeli offensive is seen in Rafah, Gaza Strip (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

Under a peace accord, each is allowed to deploy only a tiny number of troops or border guards in the zone.

At the time of the accord, Israeli troops controlled Gaza until Israel withdrew its forces and settlers in 2005.

The narrow corridor — about 100 meters wide in parts — runs the 14km (8.6-mile) length of the Gaza side of the border with Egypt and includes the Rafah crossing into Egypt.

Smuggling tunnels that run between Egypt and the Gaza Strip are known to stretch under the area.

Israel Palestinians
A top official said that Israel’s war with Hamas is likely to last through to the end of the year (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

The Israeli military official said Israel has also taken “tactical control” of Tel al-Sultan, a neighbourhood on Rafah’s north-west edge. But he said the incursion into the city remains a “limited scope and scale operation”.

Earlier on Wednesday, a top Israeli official said that Israel’s war with Hamas is likely to last through the end of the year — a grim prediction for a conflict already in its eighth month that has killed tens of thousands, deepened Israel’s global isolation and brought the region repeatedly to the brink of a wider conflagration.

National security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi’s remarks were made as Israel was expanding its offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, which has been the scene of intense fighting over recent days that has killed dozens, including displaced Palestinians.

The military said three Israeli soldiers were killed on Tuesday. Israeli media reported they were killed in a blast inside a building.

Mr Hanegbi told Kan public radio that he was “expecting another seven months of fighting” to destroy the military and governing capabilities of Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad militant group.

“The army is achieving its objectives but (it) said from the first days it was presenting its plan to the Cabinet that the war will be long,” he said. “They have designated 2024 as a year of war.”

Mr Hanegbi’s remarks raise questions about the future of Gaza and what kind of role Israel will play in it.

Already, top ally the United States has demanded that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decide on a post-war vision for the Palestinian territory and his defence minister and a top governing partner has warned that he must take steps to ensure that Israel isn’t bogged down in Gaza indefinitely.

Israel Netanyahu Antisemitism
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been told to decide on a post-war vision for Gaza (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

The war has already devastated Gaza’s urban landscape, displaced most of the territory’s population and sparked a humanitarian catastrophe and widespread hunger.

It has opened Israel up to international legal scrutiny, with world courts faulting it over its war-time conduct, sparked disagreements with the White House and prompted three European nations to recognise a Palestinian state against Israel’s wishes.

Israel says it must dismantle Hamas’ last remaining battalions in Rafah. It has also said it will seek indefinite security control over the Gaza Strip, even after the war ends.

Israel has yet to achieve its main goals of dismantling Hamas and returning scores of hostages captured in the October 7 attack that triggered the war.

Beyond Rafah, Israeli forces were still battling militants in parts of Gaza that the military said it wrested control of months ago — potential signs of a low-level insurgency that could keep Israeli troops engaged in the territory.

The fighting in Rafah has displaced 1 million people, the United Nations says, and Palestinians on Wednesday reported heavy fighting in different parts of the city.

Most of the people who had been in Rafah had previously been displaced from elsewhere in Gaza.

APTOPIX Israel Palestinians
Thousands of people have been displaced by the fighting in Rafah (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)

Residents said fighting was underway in the city centre and on the outskirts of Tel al-Sultan, a north-western neighbourhood where an Israeli strike over the weekend ignited a fire that swept through an encampment for displaced people, killing dozens.

The military says it is investigating the strike and said the blaze may have been caused by a secondary explosion.

An expensive floating pier built by the US to surge aid into the territory was meanwhile taken out of service by bad weather, in another setback to efforts to bring food to starving Palestinians.

Gaza’s land crossings are now entirely controlled by Israel.

United States Gaza Aid
All land crossings into Rafah are entirely controlled by Israel (Staff Sgt Malcolm Cohens-Ashley/US Army via AP)

The US and other allies of Israel have warned against a full-fledged offensive in Rafah, with the Biden administration saying this would cross a “red line” and refusing to provide offensive arms for such an undertaking.

On Tuesday, US state department spokesman Matthew Miller gave no indication the administration sees Israel as crossing any of the red lines for Rafah, saying the offensive is still on a “far different” scale than assaults on other population centres in Gaza.

Last week, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to halt its Rafah offensive as part of South Africa’s case accusing Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinians in Gaza, a charge Israel vehemently denies.

A proposed UN Security Council resolution demanding a halt to Rafah fighting was being circulated by Algeria on Tuesday, with plans to potentially bring it to a vote this week.

The US has vetoed multiple Gaza ceasefire resolutions.

Israel Palestinians
Palestinians displaced by the Israeli air and ground offensive on the Gaza Strip walk through a makeshift tent camp in Rafah, Gaza (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)

The war began when Hamas and other militants burst into southern Israel in a surprise attack on October 7, killing some 1,200 civilians and taking around 250 hostages.

More than 100 hostages were released during a week-long ceasefire in November in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

Israel’s offensive in response to the attack has killed at least 36,096 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between fighters and civilians in its count.

Israel says it has killed 15,000 militants.