The Hamas government said Sunday it was “surprised” to hear that Egypt is planning to create a buffer zone along the border with the Gaza Strip.

Ehab Ghissin, spokesman for the Hamas government, said that there should be no buffer zones “between brothers and friendly countries.”

Ghissin expressed hope that the Egyptian move would not “solidify the blockade” and increase the suffering of the people in the Gaza Strip.

He called for establishing a free trade area instead of a buffer zone along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.

Egyptian newspapers quoted Palestinian sources as saying that 90 percent of the smuggling tunnels along the border with the Gaza Strip have stopped functioning as a result of Egypt’s security measures.

The sources said that the Egyptian army was waging an “unprecedented” campaign to destroy houses and tunnels.

According to the sources, the planned buffer zone would be between 25 and 500 meters wide and 10 kilometers long.

Meanwhile, dozens of Egyptian families demonstrated on the Egyptian side of the border in protest against the demolition of their homes by the army.

The protesters said that the Egyptian army has notified many families living close to the border with the Gaza Strip of its intention to demolish their homes as part of its effort to create a buffer zone in the area.

The families said that in the past few days the Egyptian army destroyed several houses without allowing them time to remove their furniture and personal belongings.

The Egyptian authorities have also banned Palestinian fishermen from entering Egypt’s territorial waters near the Egyptian town of Rafah.

Last weekend, Egyptian naval troops opened fire at a fishermen’s boat near Rafah, injuring six people. The Hamas government has demanded clarifications from the Egyptians over the incident.

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