The Philadelphi Route refers to a narrow strip of land, 14 km (8.699 miles) in length, situated along the border between Gaza Strip and Egypt. Under the provisions of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty of 1979, the buffer zone was controlled and patrolled by Israeli forces. After the 1995 Oslo Accords, Israel was allowed to retain the security corridor along the border. One purpose of the Philadelphi Route was to prevent the movement of illegal materials (including weapons and ammunition) and people between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. Palestinians, in cooperation with some Egyptians, have built smuggling tunnels under the Philadelphi Route to move these into the Gaza Strip. After Israel's unilateral disengagement from the Gaza-strip in 2005, the authority for the Philadelphi Route was transferred to the Palestinian Authority. When Hamas took over the Gaza Strip (2007), Egypt and Israel closed borders with Gaza. In 2011, Egypt relaxed restrictions at its border with the Gaza Strip, allowing many Palestinians to cross freely for the first time in four years. The Egyptian army continues to destroy Gaza Strip smuggling tunnels "in order to fight any element of terrorism."
The 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, in which Israeli agreed to withdraw from the Sinai in exchange for peace with Egypt, stipulated that the border with Egypt would follow the border of the Palestine Mandate. The main border exchange would be in the town of Rafah. It was agreed that the area near the border (known as Area C) would be demilitarized, with Egypt only permitted to maintain police forces there.
The Philadelphi route runs 14 km from the Mediterranean Sea to Kerem Shalom, which is a three way border crossing between Israel, Egypt and the Gaza Strip. It is encompassed entirely in Area C, the demilitarized zone, of the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty.
In 2004, the Knesset passed a resolution to unilaterally withdraw all Israeli citizens and forces from the Gaza Strip, which went into force in August 2005. Israel’s interest in withdrawing completely was to “free itself of the responsibility for the Gaza Strip”. However, in order to do so it would have to withdraw from the Philadelphi route as well. This raised the concern of Palestinian terrorists smuggling weapons from Egypt into the Gaza strip.
Much opposition arose within the “Israeli defense establishment” to vacating the Philadelphi route for strategic reasons. The primary concern was the militarization of Gaza and the threat to Israeli security that its militarization would pose. However, it was decided to vacate the corridor in order to prevent Israeli-Palestinian friction which could destabilize the region further.
Israel’s decision to withdraw from the Phildelphi Route also posed a threat to the neighboring Egyptians through the potential militarization of Gaza. It was feared that Israel’s departure would create a power vacuum that the weak Palestinian leadership would not be able to fill, thus creating a void to be filled by radical Islamists.
 Philadelphi Accord
To mitigate the risk associated with complete disengagement from Gaza, Israel signed the “Agreed Arrangements Regarding the Deployment of a Designated Force of Border Guards along the Border in the Rafah Area” or the Philadelphi Accord with Egypt. It authorized Egypt to deploy 750 border guards to patrol the Egypt side of the Philadelphi route to prevent “smuggling … infiltration and other criminal activity”. The agreement specified that the Egyptian force is “a designated force for the combating of terrorism and infiltration across the border” as opposed to for military purposes.
The Accord specifically indicated that the new agreement did not modify or amend the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty, and maintained the status of the Philaldelphi route and Sinai desert as a demilitarized zone.
- The parties acknowledge that the BGF [border Guard Force] deployment and these Agreed Arrangements, in no way constitute an amendment to or a revision or modification of Annex I to the Peace Treaty. Rather they constitute additional mission-oriented security measures agreed upon by the parties. -Philadelphi Accord, Article 9
Instead, it “enhance[ed] Egypt’s capability to fight smuggling along the border,” while ensuring that the forces would not serve any military purposes. Israel insisted on the inclusion of the agreement provisions indicating that it was not an amendment to the 1979 Peace Treaty because during negotiations Egypt attempted to frame the agreement toward the re-militarization of the Sinai and its borders with Israel and Gaza.
The Accord itself contains 83 clauses and specifically describes the mission and obligations of the parties, including the specific types of machinery, weaponry and infrastructure permitted.
 Egyptian Border Guard Force
The Philadelphi Accord created the Egyptian Border Guard Force (BGF) composed of 750 ground personnel divided between headquarters and four companies. The agreement specified that the BGF be equipped with the following:
- 500 assault rifles
- 67 light machine guns
- 27 light anti-personnel launchers
- ground radar
- 31 police-style vehicles
- 44 logistical and auxiliary vehicles
Sentry posts, watchtowers and logistical facilities were permitted. Heavy armored vehicles, fortification, military-style intelligence-gathering equipment, and weaponry and equipment beyond the above numbers were prohibited.
 Controversy Regarding Philadelphi Accord in Israeli Knesset
A number of scholars have looked into the legal issue of whether or not the Philadelphi Accord needed to be passed by the Knesset. Generally, the Knesset approves of major treaties either before or after their passage. The issue arose because the Philadelphi Accord would partially militarize Area C of the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, changing the treaty and hence needing Knesset approval. This position was advocated by the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairperson, Yuval Steinitz; he was supported by MK Danny Yatom and they jointly filed a petition to the Supreme Court against the Government. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on the other hand, argued that the treaty did not change the “demilitarized” status of Area C, and therefore was not a significant enough treaty that it needed to be ratified. On July 6, 2005, the Attorney General ruled that the government was not bound to seek Knesset approval for the treaty, but convention stipulated that it should.
 Transfer to Palestinian Authority
Following Israel's disengagement from Gaza, Israel transferred authority for the Philadelphi Route to the Palestinian Authority. The Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA) was signed after the Philadelphi Accord between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to “promote peaceful economic development and improve the humanitarian situation on the ground”. It opened the Rafah border in November 2005 and placed it under the authority of the Palestinian Authority and Egypt, with EU observers.
 Current status
In January 2008, Palestinian militants destroyed several parts of the wall bordering the town of Rafah. Thousands of Gazans flowed into Egypt in search of food and supplies. As of August 2012[update] the Egyptian army continued to destroy tunnels linking Egypt and Gaza and their security source said its demolition will continue "in order to fight any element of terrorism."
 See also
- In pictures: Searching for Gaza's tunnels
- Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Weapon Smuggling Tunnels in Rafah - Operation Rainbow
- Egypt eases blockade at Gaza's Rafah border BBC News, 28 May 2011.
- "Egypt resumes demolition of Gaza tunnels". Ma'an News Agency. Retrieved September 16, 2012.
- Moshe Hirsch (2006). ""Treaty-Making Power: Approval of the Israel-Egypt "Philadelphi Accord" by the Knesset". The Israel Law Review. p. 229. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
- Moshe Hirsch (2006). ""Treaty-Making Power: Approval of the Israel-Egypt "Philadelphi Accord" by the Knesset". Israel Law Review. p. 229. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
- Brooke Neuman (September 19, 2005), A New Reality on the Egypt-Gaza Border (part I): Contents of the New Israel-Egypt Agreement, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Peace Watch #518
- Brooke Neuman (September 21, 2005), A New Reality on the Egypt-Gaza Border (part II): Contents of the New Israel-Egypt Agreement, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Peace Watch #518
- Moshe Hirsch (2006). ""Treaty-Making Power: Approval of the Israel-Egypt "Philadelphi Accord" by the Knesset". Israel Law Review. pp. 230–234. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
- "Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA)". European Union Border Assistance Mission in Rafah. Retrieved May 21, 2010.[dead link]
- "Egypt 'won't force Gazans back'". BBC News. 23 January 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-23.
- Hamas: Egypt destroying Gaza smuggling tunnels by flooding them. By Jack Khoury. Haaretz, 11.02.13
- Egypt floods Gaza tunnels to cut Palestinian lifeline. Reuters, Feb 13, 2013
- SULLIVAN, Denis Joseph; JONES, Kimberly A. Global Security Watch - Egypt: A Reference Handbook, ABC-CLIO/Greenwood, 2008, pp.116s.