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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Egypt deploying 5000 troops to Philadelphi

Egypt is deploying 5000 troops to the Philadelphi corridor in response to reports that Israel is preparing to use specialized bombs to destroy the network of weapons smuggling tunnels that have been uncovered there. Israel is considering bombing the tunnels from the air as an alternative to deploying its own forces along the corridor.

According to an agreement between Egypt and Israel, 750 Egyptian Border Police were supposed to replace the police forces that were deployed along the Philadelphi Corridor.

Earlier Saturday, Egypt announced that it had doubled the number of police deployed along Gaza's Philadelphi route from 750 to 1,500.

According to another report, the 5,000 Egyptians were members of the police's central security force. They joined a similar number of border guards already deployed along the area known as the Philadelphi corridor, fearing the possible operation's impact on civilians living on the Egyptian side of the border.

Al-Reuters reports that on Friday, the Israeli daily newspaper Maariv reported that precision-guided weapons would be used to penetrate deep underground in the hope of destroying the tunnel network that the Jewish state says riddles the area, which is 11 km long (6.5 miles) and approximately 100 meters (330 feet) wide.

The decision to use "smart" bombs may be a substitute to reoccupying the entire region, the newspaper said. Israel says it has been unable to control weapons smuggling into Gaza since it withdrew its forces from the coastal strip last year.

But this evening, Maariv is reporting that the IDF wishes to undertake an operation in the area to clean the tunnels out (link in Hebrew). Maariv is reporting that the security forces have received a number of warnings of the tunnels being used to carry out terror attacks in the communities that abut the Gaza Strip, just as a tunnel was used this past summer to kidnap IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit. Until now, that warning had been general, but Maariv implies that it now relates to specific communities.

The IDF has declined comment on all these reports, but an IDF spokesman said that "Anything that will take place along the Philadelphi Corridor will be reported to the Egyptian authorities in advance."

The Egyptians claim that 20,000 civilians in the border area could be endangered by an IDF operation.


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