People evacuate their belongings after being warned of their house about to be demolished during a military operation by Egyptian security forces in the Egyptian city of Rafah, near the border with southern Gaza Strip. (Photo: Reuters)
North Sinai's Rafah residents, whose houses are located on the border line between Egypt and the Gaza Strip started evacuating their homes Tuesday after an official decision to form a buffer zone.
The buffer zone will extend between 12 to 15 kilometres in length, with a depth of 500 meters. Local sources close to the municipal councils said the decision was not a surprise, as it comes following a request issued two months ago.
A survey on the number of buildings and homes to be evacuated has been completed. Most of the residents in these buildings belong to Al-Barahma, Al-Kanabra and Salah El-Din clans.
They have been consulted on the appropriate compensation for their evacuation, according to North Sinai Governor Abdel-Fattah Harhour.
There has been an urgency in implementing the decision now due to the volatile security situation in the area.
The evacuated buildings include homes, apartment blocks of three and four stories, commercial stores, mosques and two schools.
The army started implementing the evacuation on Tuesday morning after a government decision to form a buffer zone to protect Egypt's borders and eliminate smuggling tunnels, following a rise in militant attacks on police and army sites in North Sinai.
Abdel-Fattah Harhour, North Sinai's governor, told reporters that meetings have been held with families facing evacuation.
Harhour said that 65 percent of the families being evacuated, according to a governorate poll, requested financial compensation while twenty-nine percent asked for plots of land in Al-Arish in addition to monetary compensation to build new homes.
Harhour noted that there are 1,165 families on the border area, living in 802 houses.
Meanwhile, local sources said that some residents expressed their anger over the short notice, as officials gave a 48-hour ultimatum. Mohamed Barhoum, of Al-Barahma clan said that this is not enough especially with the imposed curfew.
In addition, families of Al-Barahma secured replacement homes, with the exception of those who have alternative housing in Al-Arish or those who can move in with relatives and friends.
However, Barhoum also says that many of the evacuated are poor and depend on being able to work on a daily-basis to make a living.
Rafah's city council will pay those evacuated LE300 monthly for three months towards rent as average rent for an apartment in the city of Al-Arish stands around LE300.
Families should receive a final compensation of LE1,200 towards each metre of land lost.
Official sources in Sinai say that once the first stage of evacuation – which includes 250 families – is complete houses will be immediately demolished.
The Armed Forces' Engineering Authority will then start forming the buffer zone on the borders.