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Majority agreed to North Sinai border evacuation, says local governor

662 out of 802 families agreed to their homes being demolished to create a buffer zone along the border with the Gaza Strip, says North Sinai governor

Ahram Online, MENA, Tuesday 4 Nov 2014
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A house (C) is seen before it was blown up during a military operation by Egyptian security forces in the Egyptian city of Rafah, near the border with southern Gaza Strip October 29 (Photo: Reuters)
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The evacuation of areas along the North Sinai border with the Gaza Strip is “consensual,” with 662 out of 802 homeowners agreeing to the move, local governor Abdel-Fattah Harhour said on a Monday.

The Egyptian army will demolish all 802 houses to create a buffer zone as part of its response to a deadly attack in late October that left 31 army personnel dead.

In an interview with Al-Arabiya TV channel, Harhour said that as of Sunday 30 families had received total compensation of LE18 million (around $2.5 million), depending on the type of house they occupied.

local sources said that some residents expressed their anger over the short notice, as officials gave a 48-hour ultimatum to leave their houses.

Mohamed Barhoum, of Al-Barahma clan previously told Ahram Online that this is not enough especially with the imposed curfew from 5 pm to 7 am.

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said the compensation for homes, which are all built on state-owned land, might reach one billion Egyptian pounds (around $140 million).  

Harhour added that 322 houses have been demolished, out of which 78 houses where found to shelter tunnels underneath.

He added that the evacuation process, with the plan to form a 500 metre wide buffer zone, will take two weeks.

However, the North Sinai governor said the buffer zone might be extended to 5 kilometres, as tunnels up to 1,750 metres deep have been found.

If the buffer zone is fully secured once completed, it would prevent smuggling and eliminate tunnels, he added.

Harhour said that El-Sisi is communicating with him on daily basis and that local officials are in constant contact with North Sinai clans leaders.

Egypt's military has been combating a decade-long jihadist insurgency in Sinai, with attacks increasing over the past year. Hundreds of soldiers and police have been killed, while the army says it has killed and arrested hundreds of jihadists. Civilians have also been caught in the violence.

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