Egyptian security forces blow up a house in Rafah, near the border with Gaza October 29, 2014.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Egyptian army on Wednesday began work to establish a buffer zone along the Gaza Strip border following last week’s terrorist attack that killed at least 33 Egyptian soldiers in Sinai.
Egyptian media outlets and military officials have accused the terrorists, whose identities remain unknown, of being linked to radical elements inside the Strip.
Some Egyptians even have suggested that the terrorists may have come to Sinai through smuggling tunnels along the Gaza border.
The 10-kilometer long buffer zone is 500 meters wide, Egyptian security officials said, adding that the buffer is part of a massive crackdown ordered by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the aftermath of the Sinai terrorist attack.
The buffer zone requires Egyptian authorities to evict 1,100 families from their homes as it clears houses and trees and destroys tunnels.
Sources in Sinai said dozens of families began leaving their homes Tuesday night after being warned by the Egyptian army. Among those evicted are Palestinian and Beduin families, they added.
“If any resident resists leaving the area in a cordial manner, their property...
will be forcibly seized,” read the decree signed by Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb.
Also on Wednesday, the Egyptian army demolished a number of houses close to the Gaza border.
Gen. Abdel Fattah Harhour, the governor of the increasingly lawless northern Sinai region, told journalists the departing residents would be compensated for their lost homes.
An Egyptian security official said authorities have offered compensation of 1,200 Egyptian Pounds ($160) per meter.
Altogether, he said, some 680 houses will be demolished to pave the way for the security zone.
Sisi is closely following the Sinai operations and is in touch with officials responsible for the military action as well as the efforts to create the buffer zone, the Egyptian state news agency MENA reported.
The Muslim Brotherhood and others on social media said the army was abusing civilians in Sinai, with one video claiming to show an injured civilian being hit while on the ground by men in military uniforms.
Hamas, meanwhile, expressed deep concern over the building of the buffer zone, saying it would tighten the blockade on Gaza. Hamas officials have strongly denied any connection to the Sinai attack.Ariel Ben Solomon and Reuters contributed to this report.