Israel's Netzarim Corridor to split Gaza in two with Ramadan deadline on Rafah assault

Israel's Netzarim Corridor to split Gaza in two with Ramadan deadline on Rafah assault
Israel's plan will see the destruction of the infrastructure located in the planned buffer area of the highway that will split north and south Gaza.
4 min read
19 February, 2024
The Israeli military has been demolishing buildings around the Netzarim corridor in order to create a buffer zone [Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images]

The Israeli army is constructing a corridor splitting Gaza City from the south as part of a plan to implement Israeli control over the enclave.

Channel 14 aired a report on the zone called the Netzarim Corridor, detailing how Israel's reserve Engineering Corps are building the new Highway 749 which will run through the strip south of Gaza City.

It revealed a 1-kilometer buffer zone north and south of the highway, with Unit 601 of the Engineering Corps tasked with demolishing surrounding buildings.

Among the structures likely to levelled are the Turkish Hospital, a campus of Al-Azhar University, the villages of Mughraqa and Juhor al-Dik, Nour and Shams amusement parks, as well as acres of agricultural land.

The corridor will run through the former grounds of the Netzarim Settlement, which was evacuated in 2005 as part of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement from Gaza.

According to Israeli soldiers speaking with Channel 14, the highway will give the army a clear route to enable future incursions into the territory and prevent the movement of people from south to north.

Earlier in January, Ynet reported that the corridor could prevent one million Palestinians who were expelled from Gaza City earlier in the war from returning to their homes.

The Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu has demanded security control and the ability to conduct raids in Gaza as part of any post-war settlement in the enclave. Experts say the corridor plan indicates the army is preparing to stay in Gaza over the long term.

The report of Israeli plans for post-war security control in the enclave come alongside immediate Israeli plans for a devastating assault on Rafah, with Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz setting a deadline of Ramadan for the start of an offensive into the city.

"The world must know, and Hamas leaders must know – if by Ramadan our hostages are not home, the fighting will continue everywhere, to include the Rafah area," Gantz said.

"We will do so in a coordinated manner, facilitating the evacuation of civilians in dialogue with our American and Egyptian partners to minimize civilian casualties" Gantz added.

His comments follow from calls by US President Joe Biden that such an assault could not happen without a plan to ensure the safety for Palestinians sheltering in the city.

Cairo is reportedly preparing land to house refugees from Gaza that could be displaced to the Egyptian side of the border in an Israeli assault.

Ramadan is set to begin on Sunday 10 March, in three weeks' time. Current negotiations for the exchange of the remaining 136 Israeli hostages in Gaza have stalled after Israel refused Hamas' proposal for a four-month ceasefire.

Netanyahu has insisted on conducting a ground assault on Rafah, pushing back against international condemnation by saying "those who want to prevent us from operating in Rafah are essentially telling us: 'Lose the war'".

The city currently holds 1.5 million people, most of whom are internally displaced people from across the enclave, with Palestinians, aid agencies and international states warning that there is nowhere else in the Gaza Strip that is safe to flee to.

On Thursday, Canada, Australia and New Zealand issued a joint statement urging against an offensive on the city, reiterating that the protection of civilians is a requirement under international law.

Israel's pending assault has also prompted condemnation from figures within the UN, with Special Rapporteur for the occupied Palestinian Territories Francesca Albanese calling Rafah the "last line of Palestinian existence in Gaza", likening an assault on Rafah to another Nakba.

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According to Israeli sources speaking to Reuters, an operation in Rafah will likely see six to eight weeks of high-intensity operations, with the army moving to low-intensity raids such as those in northern Gaza following the operation.

Israel's war on Gaza, which has destroyed much of the enclave and caused a heightened risk of famine among the its residents, has killed 29,092 people and wounded a further 69,028.

Editor's note: This article was updated to correct a mistake in the name of the university identified as laying in the buffer area.