File photo: Backhoe is placed amid the debris of houses demolished by the army in the Egyptian border town of Rafah, as seen from the Palestinian side of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip (Photo: AP)
Egypt's Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab issued a decree on Monday ordering the isolation and evacuation of new areas in North Sinai's Rafah city, thus expanding a current buffer zone implemented by Egyptian security forces on the border with Gaza, state news agency MENA has reported.
Egypt has created a one-kilometre-wide and 14-kilometre-long buffer zone on the eastern border of North Sinai as part of its fight against militants in the peninsula.
Hundreds of people have been evacuated and hundreds of houses demolished since the Egyptian army and police forces isolated the areas in an effort to crack down on tunnels they said were built between Gaza and houses on the Egyptian side to smuggle supplies for militants.
Mahlab's decision on Monday included a promise that evacuees would receive alternative housing and reparations. The prime minister warned however that the state would confiscate the property of anyone who resisted the evacuation.
North Sinai's governor Abdel-Fattah Harhour said in a meeting in January that the evacuation may expand to the entire city of Rafah, adding that a new Rafah city would be created.
Attacks by Islamist militants against security forces in Sinai have spiked since the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi, leaving hundreds dead, some of them civilians.
Egypt's army has also declared that it has killed hundreds of militants in operations in the restive peninsula.