Middle East

Israel’s Claim of Control Over Border Zone Risks Raising Tensions With Egypt

Author: Editors Desk Source: N.Y Times
May 30, 2024 at 09:09
Israeli armored personnel carriers moving along the border with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel on Wednesday.Credit...Amir Levy/Getty Images
Israeli armored personnel carriers moving along the border with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel on Wednesday.Credit...Amir Levy/Getty Images


The Israeli military’s announcement that it had seized “tactical control” of a sensitive border strip between Gaza and Egypt comes after weeks of rising tensions between Egypt and Israel over Israel’s advance into Rafah.

Israeli forces advanced into the roughly nine-mile-long area — known as the Philadelphi Corridor — in an attempt to crack down on Hamas’s ability to rearm itself by smuggling munitions into Gaza through tunnels from Egypt, according to the Israeli military. The move was part of the Israeli offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, which has prompted more than one million Palestinians to flee, according to the United Nations.

Egypt and Israel have repeatedly butted heads over the push into Rafah. After Israel captured the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt in early May, the gateway effectively shut down, with each side blaming the other for the impasse. On Monday, at least one Egyptian soldier was killed in a shooting incident with Israeli forces near the Rafah crossing; both sides say they are investigating the matter.KEY DEVELOPMENTS

  • Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, reiterated his support for an independent Palestinian state at a meeting on Thursday between China and Arab nations. Mr. Xi also committed $3 million to UNRWA, the main U.N. agency aiding Palestinians. The agency’s largest funders each gave it hundreds of millions of dollars in 2023.

  • Two Israeli soldiers were killed in a car-ramming attack in the West Bank city of Nablus, the Israeli military said on Thursday. The attacker fled the scene after the attack late Wednesday and a search was underway. Tensions have escalated in the Israeli-occupied West Bank since the Oct. 7 attack, as Israel has imposed a sweeping economic and security clampdown and conducts near-nightly raids.

  • Israel’s national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, said Wednesday that he expected Israel’s military operations in Gaza to continue through at least the end of the year, appearing to dismiss the idea that the war could come to an end after the military offensive against Hamas in Rafah. “We expect another seven months of combat in order to shore up our achievement and realize what we define as the destruction of Hamas and Islamic Jihad’s military and governing capabilities,” Mr. Hanegbi said in a radio interview with Kan, the Israeli public broadcaster.

  • The bombs used in the Israeli strike that killed dozens of Palestinians in a camp for displaced people in Rafah on Sunday were made in the United States, according to weapons experts and visual evidence reviewed by The New York Times. Munition debris filmed at the strike location the next day was remnants from a GBU-39, a bomb designed and manufactured in the United States, The Times found. U.S. officials have been pushing Israel to use more of this type of bomb, which they say can reduce civilian casualties.

  • Israel’s offensive in Rafah has strained medical and humanitarian services to the breaking point, aid workers say, with only one hospital still functioning and several aid operations forced to decamp to other parts of the Gaza Strip. The health care crisis in the city has been compounded by the closure of emergency clinics and other services amid continued clashes and strikes that have killed dozens of civilians.



Adults and children walk around the site of an Israeli strike, with some wreckage still on fire.
Palestinians inspecting some of the damage a day after an Israeli strike near a camp for displaced people in Rafah on Sunday set off a fire that killed at least 45 people.Credit...Eyad Baba/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Seeking to harness the outrage over an Israeli strike on Sunday that set fire to an encampment and killed at least 45 displaced Palestinians, including children, many diplomats at the United Nations Security Council are backing a new resolution this week that would demand an immediate cease-fire and a halt to Israel’s military operations in the city of Rafah.

But they will have to overcome the objections of the United States, which has veto power on the Council and has signaled it will not support the resolution in its current form.

Algeria, the only Arab representative in the current makeup of the Security Council, drafted and circulated the one-page resolution, which says that “Israel, the occupying Power, shall immediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in Rafah.” It calls for “an immediate cease-fire respected by all parties, and also demands the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.”

The Council held back-to-back meetings on the war in Gaza on Tuesday and Wednesday, first an emergency session behind closed doors about the strike on the encampment in Rafah and then a scheduled monthly open meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Algeria’s resolution was expected to go to a vote in the coming days.

“The human cost is self-evident and appalling,” Algeria’s ambassador, Amar Bendjama, told the Council on Wednesday. “These crimes speak for themselves.”

One U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said the United States would block the current version of the resolution, which it views as unbalanced and problematic. He said that the United States had proposed a number of revisions.

In particular, the official said, the United States does not want to endorse a resolution that calls on Israel to completely halt its military offensive in Rafah, which Israeli commanders maintain is still a stronghold for the armed group Hamas. The Biden administration supports limited Israeli operations there.

As one of the five permanent members of the Council, the United States holds veto power and has wielded it against three previous cease-fire resolutions since the war started in October. In March, the United States allowed a resolution to pass that called for a humanitarian cease-fire for the month of Ramadan by abstaining from the vote.

In recent weeks, as the civilian toll in Gaza has mounted, U.S. officials have become more openly critical of Israel’s conduct of the war. At least 36,000 people have been killed in the Israeli bombardment and ground operations, according to the Gazan Ministry of Health, which does not differentiate between fighters and civilians in its count. Health officials have said a majority of the people killed are women, children and other noncombatants.

Gazan authorities say at least 45 people were killed in Sunday’s strike and its fiery aftermath as a fire tore through the Kuwait al-Salaam camp, where displaced people were living in tents. Among the casualties was a toddler whose burned and headless body was shown in a video verified by The New York Times.

“The continued pattern of significant civilian harm resulting from incidents like Sunday’s airstrikes undermines Israel’s strategic goals in Gaza,” Robert A. Wood, the U.S. deputy ambassador to the United Nations, told the Council on Wednesday. Mr. Wood added Israel had the right to defend itself but also had “obligations to protect civilians.”

On Tuesday, senior Biden administration officials expressed horror over Sunday’s strike but said that it was not a part of a major ground operation and so did not cross President Biden’s red line for withholding weapons shipments to Israel.

The Algerian resolution also cites an emergency ruling last Friday by the United Nation’s top court, the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The ruling ordered Israel to immediately halt its military operation in Rafah, though Israeli officials have argued its wording left some room for interpretation. The ruling came after arguments by South Africa, which late last year brought a case accusing Israel of genocide to the court.

Several Security Council diplomats said that they hoped to vote on the resolution soon to capture the momentum and outrage generated by the Sunday night strike and to prevent, if possible, harm to more civilians in Gaza. Drawn-out negotiations to appease the United States, the diplomats said, would send the wrong signal about the Council’s resolve to take action.

“This Council must express itself urgently on the situation in Rafah and demand an end to this offensive,” France’s ambassador, Nicolas de Rivière, said.

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