Israel preparing to retake the Philadelphi Corridor

DEBKAfile Exclusive: In a warning to Egypt, Israel states new situation leaves no option but military action to halt weapons flow to Gaza

September 4, 2007,

The warning was relayed to Cairo in the last 24 hours. DEBKAfile’s military sources disclose that the message means Israeli armed forces are standing by for an order to recapture the Philadelphi route running along the southern Gaza border with Egypt.

The “new situation” does not refer to the upsurge of missile fire against Sderot, but the Egyptian security forces’ discovery Sun., Sept. 2, of 2.7 tons of explosives in the el-Gefgafa area 100 km southwest of the northern Sinai town of El Arish The cache was destined for the Palestinian Hamas and Jihad Islami in the Gaza Strip. Our sources reveal that it also contained for the first time several dozen 240 mm Katyusha rockets of the type used by Hizballah to blast northern Israel last year.

From Gaza, these rockets can reach the southern approaches of Beersheba, not just the towns of Ashkelon and Netivot.

According to intelligence input, the rockets were intended for immediate use by the two Palestinian groups. This information convinced Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, defense minister Ehud Barak and chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi that radical military action can no longer be delayed.

They decided that the Philadelphi route – evacuated by Israel two years ago with the rest of the Gaza Strip – would have to be retaken.

The timing will be determined at the security cabinet session Wed. Sept. 5.

DEBKAfile’s military sources add that Israel sent the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas an abbreviated version of the warning to Cairo.

The message to Egypt contained full operational details to emphasize that Israel has no wish to infringe on Egyptian sovereignty. It left an opening for President Hosni Mubarak to avert the Israeli operation by ordering Egyptian security forces to take full control of the Egyptian-Gaza border sector. Senior Israeli officials strongly doubt this will happen and expect it to be left to the IDF.

They are taking into account that all the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip will be led by Hamas and Jihad Islami in a violent response to Israel’s capture of Philadelphi by emptying their missile stocks on Israeli towns and villages in addition to Sderot.

Tuesday, Sept. 4, therefore, defense minister Barak extended the “special situation” decree governing the border region around Gaza by 48 hours.

This emergency decree grants the IDF’s Southern Command competence over civilian affairs, such as opening and closing schools, medical facilities and factories, the evacuate of civilians if warranted by the security situation, and authorizing war damages to institutions, businesses and private citizens.

At the end of 48 hours, the defense minister will request a further extension, possibly for a month, from the government, followed by the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee.

September 4, 2007 | Comments Off on Israel preparing to retake the Philadelphi Corridor

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