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Sinai tribal leaders make demands on Egypt's presidency over evacuation

Meeting with officials comes one week after hundreds of familes were evacuated from border zone between Egypt and Gaza to create a buffer zone

Ahram Online, Tuesday 4 Nov 2014
A member of the Hamas security forces stands at a border post watching Egyptian army forces patrol amid the debris of houses destroyed by the army in the Egyptian border town of Rafah, as seen from the Palestinian side of Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014 (Photo: AP)
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Tribal leaders in North Sinai presented their demands to a presidential panel on Monday, one week after the government started evacuating homes to create a border buffer zone.

The evacuation of a total of 1,156 families from the North Sinai border area, in the strip adjacent to Gaza, came after a deadly attack on 24 October that left 31 army personnel dead.

The army plans to man a buffer zone of 500 metres in depth and 14 kilometres in length in the evacuated area, stretching from Rafah to Sheikh Zuweid.

In the meeting Monday, the group presented five major demands including establishing a new city for those who left their homes, minimising the curfew period and raising the compensation given to those affected from the evacuation decision.

Sinai leaders also asked for providing ambulances in Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid cities and revising the decision of a ban on building in a 5 km area from the borders, Al-Ahram's Arabic newspaper reported.

Head of Rafah tribes Eissa El-Kharafeen told Al-Ahram that the decision of a building-ban on the borders will destroy large parts of planted areas and that it will hardly guarantee more security.

A 500-meter ban is enough to prevent the infiltration of jihadists, El-Kharafeen said.

Another tribal head, Salama Maraheel, called on authorities to make the curfew timing at 10pm instead of 5pm so that people can go on with their daily activities.

The group said the presidential panel considered all the demands and promised to deal with them.

North Sinai's governor said on Monday that 662 out of 802 homeowners have agreed to move.

Local sources, however, said that some residents have expressed their anger over the short notice, as officials had given them a 48-hour ultimatum to leave their houses.

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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