Over 700 Houses Destroyed in Rafah to Create ‘Buffer Zone’ – Mena

Egypt’s armed forces has so far destroyed over 700 houses to create a “buffer zone” on the country’s Easter border with the Palestinian Gaza Strip, a North Sinai official said on Wednesday.

The official told state-run news agency MENA that the remaining houses in the area will be destroyed within the coming few days.

Security forces began evacuating the area bordering Sinai’s Rafah on October 28, as one of the steps taken in response to militant attacks on security personnel in the Peninsula on October 24 which left over 33 killed.

Egypt’s cabinet issued on October 29 a decision to clear 500 metres of the border area with Gaza of civilians, vowing to provide compensation for those evicted.

The official said that the government has so far paid around 63 million Egyptian pounds worth of compensation for displaced Rafah residents.

Egyptian authorities decided on Monday to double the depth of the “buffer zone” to become 1000 metres, describing the expansion as the “second phase” for the zone.

The cabinet’s decision to create the “buffer zone” allows the forcible seizure of the property of those who refuse to evacuate their homes. It also excludes those who shelter tunnels under their houses from entitlement to compensation.

The decision to expand the “buffer zone” was made after discovering some tunnels in the Peninsula over 800 metres long, reported MENA.

Security forces have been targeting tunnels dug up in the Sinai to connect it with Gaza. Egyptian authorities say the tunnels are used to smuggle arms to militants in the Peninsula, while Sinai residents argue that the tunnels provide them with a source of income as they use them to trade goods with the besieged Gaza Strip.

According to a surveillance of the first 500 metres, there were 802 houses sheltering 1156 families which needed to be evacuated.

Militants have stepped up attacks targeting security forces in Egypt, particularly in the Sinai Peninsula, since the army’s ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in July 2013, which followed mass protests against his rule.

At least 30 military personnel were killed in a suicide blast which targeted a security checkpoint in Sinai’s Sheikh Zuweid on October 24, in the worst militant attack since Mursi’s ouster.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency and a nighttime curfew in parts of the Sinai Peninsula in response to the attack.

Source : Aswat Masriya