Israel seizes Gaza’s entire border with Egypt, continues raids into Rafah

GAZA CITY — Israeli forces have taken control of the buffer zone along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, the Israeli military announced on Wednesday. This move effectively gives Israel authority over Gaza’s entire land border.

Despite an order from the International Court of Justice to cease attacks on Rafah, Israeli forces continued their deadly raids in the southern Gaza city, where half of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents had taken refuge.

In a televised briefing, Chief Military Spokesperson Daniel Hagari stated that Israeli forces had gained “operational” control over the “Philadelphi Corridor,” the Israeli military’s code name for the 14-kilometer-long corridor along Gaza’s border with Egypt.

“The Philadelphi Corridor served as an oxygen line for Hamas, which it regularly used to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip,” Hagari said. Hamas is the armed Palestinian group governing the blockaded territory.

While Hagari did not clarify what “operational” control entails, an Israeli military official indicated that Israeli soldiers were present along parts of the corridor. The border with Egypt was Gaza’s only land border not directly controlled by Israel.

Earlier on Wednesday, Israeli tanks raided Rafah, moving into the city center despite the UN court’s directive to halt the assault.

The International Court of Justice had criticized Israel for failing to explain how it would ensure the safety and provision of essentials for evacuees from Rafah. The court also called on Hamas to immediately and unconditionally release hostages taken from Israel on October 7.

Rafah residents reported that Israeli tanks advanced into Tel Al-Sultan in the west, Yibna, and near Shaboura in the center before retreating toward the buffer zone along the Egyptian border.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that Israel needs to develop a post-war plan for Gaza to avoid lawlessness, chaos, and a potential resurgence of Hamas in the enclave. The United States, Israel’s closest ally, reiterated its opposition to a major ground offensive in Rafah while stating that it did not believe such an operation was currently underway.

The Gaza Health Ministry reported that more than 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s offensive. The conflict escalated after Hamas-led militants attacked southern Israeli communities on October 7, killing approximately 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli reports.