JERUSALEM Ñ Israel's military plans to expand the border corridor
between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.
Israeli officials said the corridor would be expanded from the current
width of 50 meters to at least 200 meters. In some areas, the officials
said, the corridor would reach 300 meters in width.
The eight-kilometer corridor would also be lined with observation posts
and electronic sensors, officials said. They said the 1993
Israeli-Palestinian agreement allows Israel to expand the border area to up
to three kilometers.
The military has also proposed to the Cabinet that Israel dig a giant
trench that would reach the water table in the Egyptian-Gaza border area in
an effort to prevent the construction of tunnels. Officials said such a
project would cost more than $100 million and has not yet been approved.
On Sunday, Israel's High Court ruled that the military could widen the
corridor by destroying empty buildings on the outskirts of the Palestinian
refugee camp of Rafah. The military said virtually all of the buildings near
the corridor have been vacated by their owners and taken over by Palestinian
insurgents. Palestinian sources said 116 buildings were destroyed last week
Officials said the widened border strip would ensure the effectiveness
of the military's observation posts along the so-called Philadelphi
corridor. They said that Israeli soldiers have long been hampered by
constant Palestinian small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire from
The removal of the buildings would also prevent Palestinian insurgents
from placing bombs along the corridor, officials said. They said the
widening of the corridor would also allow armored bulldozer and armored
teams to effectively detect and destroy weapons tunnels without the
distraction of sniper and RPG fire.
Officials said the widening of the corridor would also hamper
Palestinian efforts to dig tunnels from Rafah into neighboring Egypt. They
said the Palestinians would require advanced tools to complete an extended
The widening of the border corridor was part of a plan to separate Rafah
from the rest of the Gaza Strip, officials said. They said the military,
which has already deployed troops and tanks between Rafah and Khan Yunis,
launched the plan on Monday.
Earlier, Israeli AH-64A Apache attack helicopters fired missiles toward
a Fatah office, a Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine office
and a car in the Gaza City neighborhood of Zeitoun, the scene of heavy
fighting last week between Israeli troops and Palestinian insurgents.
Palestinian sources said the Israeli missiles struck the car and several
people were injured. Along the Israeli-Gaza security fence, Israeli troops
killed three Palestinians as they tried to plant a bomb for use against
"We started continuous air strikes," Israeli Defense Minister Shaul
Mofaz said. "We will intensify the fighting."
Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon briefed the Cabinet on the plans
to expand the border corridor, a move that officials said has been delayed
for operational reasons. Ya'alon said Egypt was not helping to prevent the
flow of weapons to the Gaza Strip.
Ya'alon said the weapons being smuggled from Egypt came from Africa and
Iran. He said Palestinians have been trying to smuggle Katyusha rockets from
Sinai into the Gaza Strip.