IDF considers retaking Philadelphi

Defense official to 'Post': Army would be responsible for resealing border wall breached by Hamas.

IDF drill wicked 224.88 (photo credit: IDF)
IDF drill wicked 224.88
(photo credit: IDF)
There is a growing possibility that the IDF will be ordered to retake the Philadelphi Corridor between the Gaza Strip and Sinai to prevent arms smuggling and terrorist attacks on Israel, defense officials told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. Alongside its plans for a large-scale invasion of the Gaza Strip, the IDF is drawing up a proposal to reoccupy the Philadelphi Corridor, the IDF's name for a 10-kilometer strip of land that runs along the Gaza-Egyptian border. The corridor is home to dozens of tunnels that - until the border wall was destroyed two weeks ago - were used to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip. Defense officials said that when the operational plans are ready, the IDF will present them to the political echelon for permission to invade Gaza. The plans could be expedited, the officials said, if the Palestinians begin using more sophisticated and long-range weapons in addition to the primitive Kassam rocket. "At the moment, we are fighting against the Kassam, which is a 'statistical weapon,'" a senior official said. "If this changes and they begin firing large numbers of long-range Katyusha rockets that would strike not only at Sderot but at Kiryat Gat and Netivot, then there may be a need for an operation." After retaking the corridor, the IDF would work to reseal the border wall destroyed two weeks ago by Hamas. Another goal of such an operation would be to draw out Hamas operatives and get a better sense of the terrorist group's fighting capabilities as well as the exact type of advanced weaponry it has succeeded in smuggling into Gaza. Earlier this week, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin told the cabinet that Hamas had used the border breach to smuggle in large amounts of anti-tank rockets and anti-aircraft shoulder-to-air rockets as well as long-range and sophisticated missiles. Iran is believed to have been behind some of the weapons smuggling. Also, some of the group's weapons storehouses are believed to be near Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip and retaking the corridor would give the IDF an opportunity to locate and destroy them. It remains an open question what Israel's exit strategy from the corridor would be. One defense official said that once the border was resealed, Israel would expect the Egyptians to increase their efforts to stop the smuggling of both weapons and terrorists in and out of Gaza. On Wednesday, two sisters, aged 12 and two, were lightly wounded by a Kassam rocket near a playground in Kibbutz Be'eri in the western Negev. The girls, who were playing outside their home, were evacuated to Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba with shrapnel wounds, and their mother was treated for shock. Hamas claimed responsibility for the rocket fire. Moments later, a home in Sderot sustained serious damage from a direct hit from a rocket. No one was wounded, but several people were sent into shock. Earlier in the day, six Kassams were fired into Israel, all hitting open areas. In addition, the IAF struck a rocket launching cell in the Gaza Strip, the army said. Hamas said four of its men were moderately wounded in the attack. Late Wednesday night, IAF aircraft bombed a metal workshop in central Gaza, Hamas said. No one was hurt and the IDF said that the workshop was used by the terror group to manufacture weaponry. A few minutes later, another aircraft targeted a Hamas car in southern Gaza. There were no reports of injuries.