Rafah-Gaza buffer zone expands; more Sinai residents to be evacuated

Ahram Online , Wednesday 31 Dec 2014

As the Egyptian government prepares to move to phase 2 of the buffer zone being created in the border city of Rafah, more locals face eviction

Rafah crossing
Rafah border crossing on Egypt-Gaza border (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt will begin work on phase two of the buffer zone on the Rafah-Gaza border next week, state news agency MENA reported Tuesday.

North Sinai governor Abdel-Fattah Harhour said in a meeting with locals that eviction operations for the additional 500 metres to be added to the buffer zone will take place next week. He asked residents to report to the local council to file for compensation.

Last week Harhour said that the government paid LE234 million in compensation to families in the 595 homes impacted by phase one of the buffer zone.

He explained to Ahram Online that total compensation expenditures will reach as much as LE500 million after they compensate the remaining homes affected by the project.

In November, Egypt's army said it would double the width of the buffer zone from 500 meters to one kilometre in a second phase. The zone is 14 kilometres in length.

A state of emergency was declared in the border governorate of North Sinai in late October, following a major militant attack near the town of Sheikh Zuweid town where at least 30 army personnel were killed and a few dozens injured.

The attack was later claimed by Ansar Beit El-Maqdis, a group which pledged loyalty to the Islamic State in early November.

The October attack led the armed forces to announce the two-phased creation of a buffer zone in an effort to combat rising militancy in the strategic peninsula – a hotbed for jihadists for almost a decade.

The army had previously announced it destroyed at least 1,800 smuggling tunnels in Sinai. 

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