Cairo Warns Against Israeli Operation on Egypt-Gaza Border

Latest Developments

Cairo warned Jerusalem on January 22 that an Israeli operation along Egypt’s border with Gaza would present a “serious threat” to Egypt-Israel relations and cross a “red line.” The Egyptian government made the threat in response to reports that Israel may be preparing a military operation to secure the 8.7-mile land route — an area known as the Philadelphi Corridor — and destroy the network of illicit Hamas tunnels that connect Egypt and Gaza.

The Philadelphi Corridor represents a key strategic location for Israel, as it is likely the smuggling route that Hamas has exploited to build its weapons arsenal in Gaza. In December 2023, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that in order to demilitarize Gaza, the Philadelphi Corridor “must be in our hands. It must be shut.”

Expert Analysis

“There is little doubt that much of Hamas’s deadly arsenal has been smuggled through Egypt, either above or below ground. There is no way to ensure the demilitarization of Gaza without securing the Philadelphi Corridor.” — Enia Krivine, Senior Director of FDD’s Israel Program and National Security Network

“The Egyptian government is uncomfortable with the potential new reality of Israel having more leverage over Gaza. But generally speaking, both Cairo and Jerusalem aren’t strangers to border collaboration. They have cooperated before and will adjust accordingly with the Philadelphi Corridor.” — Haisam Hassanein, FDD Adjunct Fellow

Cross-Border Smuggling

In addition to facilitating terrorist activity, the tunnels between Egypt and Gaza have, for years, facilitated illicit commerce. Criminals leverage the subterranean route to transport drugs and everyday goods into the Gaza Strip. Hamas also uses the smuggling route to bring in everyday goods to Gaza, which the regime then taxes and charges customs resulting in a significant source of revenue.

Under former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, Cairo tacitly allowed Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other malign actors to exploit the tunnel system. Cairo cracked down on the underground network after current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi assumed power in 2013. However, smuggling has continued.

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