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Egypt to evacuate 10,000 homes in Gaza buffer zone expansion

June 6, 2015 9:49 A.M. (Updated: June 22, 2015 8:22 P.M.)
Residents stand by homes destroyed in Rafah, Nov. 4, 2014. (AFP/ Mohamed el-Sherbeny, File)
CAIRO (Ma'an) -- Egyptian military forces will begin to evacuate more homes opposite to the borderlines with the Gaza Strip come July, in an ongoing expansion of the no-go area between Egypt and the Palestinian coastal enclave, Egyptian military sources said Saturday.

A fertile ground for smuggling tunnels running underground between the two sides, Egypt has evacuated thousands of homes this year due to alleged use of the tunnels for supporting a current militant insurgency in the Sinai.

Several families have been notified of the evacuation plans which are expected to affect some 10,000 houses in the Safa, Imam Ali and al-Ahrash neighborhoods in Rafah city in North Sinai Peninsula, said authorities, who seek to expand the zone by 500 meters.

Work on the buffer zone on the Egyptian side began in February 2014, but was at the time slated to extend only about 300 meters in urban areas and 500 meters in rural areas.

After a bombing killed more than 30 Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai in October 2014, however, the military stepped up a campaign to build the buffer zone amid accusations of Hamas support for the group that carried out the attack.

Egyptian military authorities accuse Hamas of direct involvement of planning and executing attacks against Egyptian military targets, as well as intentionally threatening political stability in the region.

Hamas, which denies Egyptian accusations, has suffered poor relations with the Egyptian government ever since the democratically-elected Muslim Brotherhood, with whom they were closely allied, was thrown out of power in July 2013.

Deteriorating relations between Egypt and Hamas come at a high price to Gaza's 1.8 million residents for whom the smuggling tunnels have served as a lifeline to the outside world since Israel imposed a crippling siege on the coastal enclave in 2007.

While the tunnels are used by Hamas as a source of tax revenue and inflow of weapons, they also supply highly-demanded necessities for Gazans including food, medicine, as well as infrastructure materials including concrete and fuel.

Around 1,110 houses on the Egyptian side had been demolished by the end of April to make way for the expanding buffer zone, with more than 1,000 families displaced.

Both sides of the border are densely populated as the city of Rafah originally extended in both directions, a growth that was the result of the Israeli occupation of the Sinai Peninsula for more than a decade following the 1967 war.

Egyptian military sources say that to eradicate the potential danger of smuggling tunnels "once and for all," the current no-go area should reach 5,000 meters and be protected with a water canal dug alongside it.

The evacuation is set to start immediately after the holy month of Ramadan, around July 20.
Boil / Romania
A great shame for the civilians in Gaza that this buffer zone action was not done by the Egyptian Army, when the unilateral Israeli disengagement from Gaza was enacted in August 2005.
06/06/2015 09:58
Dio / USA
Well, at least they compensate those who lose their homes (judging from past demos), and they are doing it to their own citizens within their own territory. When Israel wants to create a "buffer zone", they just start firing at, injuring, and killing civilians from Gaza in the Gazans own territory.
06/06/2015 21:39
cv miears / usa
So, so sad. What are the Palestinians supposed to do
07/06/2015 05:22
Mel / UK
Hmm, it looks like Maan is now an extension of the Israeli army propaganda office, in the selection of its majority posts? What happened to your courage Ma'an?
07/06/2015 12:57
spb / usa
unlike Egypt, Israel provide palestinians in gaza with opportunities to declare victories
07/06/2015 22:43
Brian Cohen / Israel
Looks like Dio and Mel have lost their morality. Such a shame that they do not care for the poor Egyptians who are suffereing from war crimes. But they simply don't care. Poor Mel, he doesn't like the fact that Maan posts actual news stories alongside Pallywood.
07/06/2015 22:45
Arnold / Canada
All this because Palestinians did not want to accept their State of Palestine on Nov 30 1947.
08/06/2015 21:20
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