The Gaza—Egypt border is the 12 km long border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Along the border exists a buffer zone with the Philadelphia Route, which is about 14 km long. The main border crossing is at Rafah. Another border crossing is the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom border crossing on the south-east point of Gaza, where it borders Israel and Egypt.
In 1979, Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty that returned the Sinai Peninsula, which borders the Gaza Strip, to Egyptian control. As part of that treaty, a 100-meter-wide strip of land known as the Philadelphia Route was established as a buffer zone between Gaza and Egypt. The Philadelphia Route is a patrol road that runs along the border. Until 2000, the Israel Defense Forces(IDF) used a 20-40 meter wide buffer zone along the Gaza/Egypt border with a 2.5 to 3 meters high concrete wall topped with barbed wire.
Israel built a barrier and a 200–300 meter buffer zone in the Philadelphia route during the Palestinian uprisings of the early 2000s. It was made mostly of corrugated sheet metal, with stretches of concrete topped with barbed wire. The construction of the buffer zone required the demolition of entire blocks of houses at the main entrance to Rafah's central thoroughfare, as well as in the Al-Brazil block, Tel al Sultan and "Block O".
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Since 2001, the IDF has routinely demolished Palestinian houses in Rafah, to create a buffer zone. In 2002, the IDF destroyed hundreds of houses in Rafah, needed for expansion of the buffer zone and the building of an eight meter high and 1.6 kilometers long metal wall along the border. The wall also extends two meters underground. The wall is built some eighty to ninety meters from the border, which doubled the width of the patrol corridor. After the metal wall was completed in early 2003, the demoltions continued and were even increased dramatically. According to Human Rights Watch, the wall was built far inside the demolished area to create a new starting point for justifying further demolitions.
2004 expansion, Operation Rainbow
After the death on 12 May 2004 of 5 Israeli soldiers who were operating in the buffer zone, the Government approved on 13 May a plan to further expand the buffer zone, which would require the demolition of hundreds of homes. The Israeli military recommended demolishing all homes within three hundred meters of its positions, or about four hundred meters from the border. The plan elicited strong international criticism.
On 14 May, a large IDF force entered the "Brazil block" of Rafah and in a heavy fighting, as reported by UNWRA, 12 Palestinians were killed and 52 injured. Israeli forces began demolishing houses in the Qishta neighborhood. and destroyed scores of houses. Around midnight the same day, the Israeli High Court of Justice issued an interim order, temporarily barring the IDF from demolishing homes in the refugee camp, if the action was not part of "a regular military operation". Nevertheless, the IDF continued the destruction of homes until 15 May 5:00 a.m. because of "immediate military necessity, a risk to soldiers, or a hindrance to a military operation", raising the number of destroyed houses to just over 100.
On 16 May, the High Court ruled that the IDF may destroy homes according to their needs; the IDF had pledged that it would refrain from unnecessarily demolishing houses. The next day, Israel started "Operation Rainbow".
On 18 May, the Israel government declared that the plan to widen a buffer zone along the Egyptian border was cancelled, while the same day the army massively invaded Rafah and continued its large-scale destruction. On 19 May 2004, the United Nations Security Council condemned the killing of Palestinian civilians and the demolition of homes.
Between 1 April 2003 and 30 April 2004, 106 houses were demolished in Rafah. According to HRW, the IDF’s justifications for the destruction were doubtful and rather consistent with the goal of having a wide and empty border area to facilitate long-term control over the Gaza Strip.
An army plan to dig a moat along the border was dropped in 2005 after it was rejected by the Attorney General, because it required the destruction of 3,000 more homes in Rafah. Instead, the IDF started the building of a 7–9 meters high (about 20–30 feet) concrete wall along the border in a 60-100 meter (about 200–300 feet) wide security strip, equipped with electronic sensors and underground concrete barriers to prevent tunneling.
2009 Egyptian steel wall
In December 2009, Egypt started with help from the US, the building of an Egypt–Gaza barrier along the Gaza border, consisting of a steel wall.
2014—15 Egyptian demolition of homes and terror/smuggling tunnels
In October 2014 Egypt announced that they planned to expand the buffer zone between Gaza and Egypt, following a terrorist attack from Gaza that killed 31 Egyptian soldiers. The buffer was created "in a move meant to halt the passage of weapons and militants through cross-border smuggling tunnels but which also puts more pressure on the Palestinian militant Hamas group."
The buffer zone originally was 500 meters, built by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the President of Egypt, to thwart the Gaza Strip smuggling tunnels also used for terrorist acts. Following the announcement of the expanded buffer zone many residents voluntarily left the area. Ibrahim Mahlab the Prime Minister of Egypt announced that any residents unwilling to move willfully would be forcefully removed from their homes.
On 17 November Egypt announced that the buffer zone would be doubling to 1 km due to the longer than expected tunnels discovered, in addition to a night time curfew for the area. On January 8, 2015, Egypt's expansion resulted in the destruction of about 1,220 homes, while destroying more than 1,600 tunnels. Some tunnels discovered ranged over 1 kilometer long and contained lighting, ventilation and phone systems.The total cost of this phase of the buffer zone is expected to cost $70 million.
In June 2015 Egypt completed its digging of a ditch by the Rafah Crossings, 20 meters wide by 10 meters deep.
Rafah Border Crossing
The Rafah Border Crossing lies on the international border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip that was recognized by the 1979 Israel–Egypt Peace Treaty and confirmed during the 1982 Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula.
The crossing was managed by the Israel Airports Authority until Israel evacuated Gaza on 11 September 2005 as part of Israel's unilateral disengagement plan. It subsequently became the task of the European Union Border Assistance Mission Rafah (EUBAM) to monitor the crossing.
In 2005 when Israel decided to pull out of the Gaza Strip, Israel and Egypt reached an agreement regarding the border, based on the principles of the 1979 peace treaty. The agreement specified that 750 Egyptian border guards would be deployed along the length of the border, and both Egypt and Israel pledged to work together to stem terrorism, arms smuggling, and other illegal cross-border activities. In September 2005, following Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, control of the Philadelphia route was handed over to the Palestinian National Authority. Under an agreement reached in November 2005, EUBAM was responsible for monitoring the Rafah Border Crossing. From November 2005 until July 2007, the Rafah Crossing was jointly controlled by Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, with the European Union monitoring Palestinian compliance on the Gaza side.
The crossing reopened with EUBAM monitors on 25 November 2005, and operated daily until 25 June 2006 (except for one day), when the crossing was closed after Palestinians attacked the Kerem Shalom crossing point and captured an Israeli soldier. The crossing was infrequently reopened after this attack.
In June 2007 the Rafah Crossing was closed by the Egyptian authorities after the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip. Due to the lack of security the EU monitors pulled out of the region, and Egypt agreed with Israel to shut down the Rafah Crossing. During the Battle of Gaza, 6,000 Palestinians took refuge from the fighting across the Egyptian border. They were stranded on the Egyptian side of Rafah after Hamas took power and were prevented by Hamas from returning to the Gaza Strip. Israeli and Egyptian diplomats tried to convince Hamas to allow these Palestinians to peacefully use the Kerem Shalom crossing to return home. However, on 5 July 2007, according to Israeli officials, Hamas refused to allow the crossing to be used and threatened to attack the crossing with mortars and gunfire, even at the cost of killing thousands of Palestinians.
On 22 January 2008 after Israel imposed a total closure on all crossings to the Gaza Strip, a group of Hamas demonstrators attempted to force open the door of the Rafah Crossing. They were beaten back by Egyptian police and gunfire erupted. That same night Hamas militants set off 15 explosive charges, demolishing a 200-metre length of the metal border wall. After the resulting Breach of the Gaza-Egypt border, many thousands of Palestinians, with estimates ranging from 200,000 to 700,000, crossed into Egypt to buy goods. Palestinians were seen purchasing food, fuel, cigarettes, shoes, furniture, car parts, and generators.
The border was closed again by Egypt with Hamas's cooperation, except for travelers returning home, on 3 February 2008. At this time, many of the Palestinians who had been stranded on the Egyptian side of the border following the Battle of Gaza are believed to have taken the opportunity to return to the Gaza Strip.
On 1 June 2010, in the midst of international uproar following Israel's attack on a relief boat, Egypt announced it was opening the border crossing.
On May 28, 2011, the Rafah border was opened for Palestinians to cross into Egypt. Most travel restrictions were dropped, though men between the ages of 18 to 40 entering Egypt must apply for visas and others need travel permits. Soon after the revolution, Egypt’s foreign minister, Nabil el-Araby, opened discussions with Hamas aimed at easing the travel restrictions and improving relations between the two. Even though passenger restrictions were loosened, the shipment into Gaza of goods remains blocked. In the first five hours after the opening, 340 people crossed into Egypt.
However in mid-June 2011 the crossing was closed for several days and after that only a few hundred were allowed to cross each day compared with 'thousands' who applied to cross each day. Egypt reportedly agreed to allow a minimum of 500 people to cross each day.
On 5 July 2013, in the wake of Islamist attacks on security forces in the Sinai following the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi, the border crossing was closed for several days by the Egyptian Army. It was later reopened for four hours each day. After the August 14th clashes, the border crossing was closed 'indefinitely'.
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