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Egypt to evacuate hundreds on border with Gaza

Egypt to evacuate hundreds on border with Gaza
Part of the military force deployed in Egypt's North Sinai following recent attacks that killed at least 33 soldiers.
Part of the military force deployed in Egypt’s North Sinai following recent attacks that killed at least 33 soldiers.

Reporting by Egyptian Streets and Aswat Masriya

A joint committee of the armed forces and the Rafah City Council has surveyed the houses located on the eastern border of Rafah in preparation for their evacuation, sources within the committee said.

The sources, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Aswat Masriya that over 800 houses with ten thousand inhabitants have been surveyed.

However, the number of residents in the area of evacuation is likely to be much less, with between 250-600 houses expected to be evacuated.

Residents were offered either financial compensation, a piece of land or a housing unit in exchange for evacuating their houses. The third option was completely exhausted, the sources said.

The evacuation comes as Egypt prepares to implement a buffer zone along the Rafah border crossing with Gaza. The buffer zone will be 500 meters along the border with Gaza and will stretch along the length of the 13 kilometer border.

According to sources, many houses along the border conceal tunnels running underneath it and to the Gaza Strip, where authorities claim arms smuggling occurs. In an attempt to counter the construction of new tunnels, water filled trenches will reportedly be constructed.

Gaza’s ruling body Hamas criticised the buffer zone in a Monday statement, saying it would reinforce the siege imposed on the strip since 2007. The tunnels have played a vital role in the economy of the Gaza Strip, often providing residents with much needed supplies.

Militants have stepped up attacks targeting security forces in Egypt, particularly in the Sinai Peninsula, since the army’s ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in July 2013, which followed mass protests against his rule.

A fact-sheet prepared by Egypt’s ministry of foreign affairs put the death toll for terrorism acts which took place since January 2011 and until April 2014 at 971, including 664 security personnel. The death toll has significantly risen since then.

At least 30 military personnel were killed in a suicide blast which targeted a security checkpoint in Sheikh Zuweid on Friday, in the worst militant attack since Mursi’s ouster. The explosion also caused damage to two military vehicles.

Shortly afterwards, a separate attack by unidentified gunmen on a security checkpoint in al-Arish killed three more security personnel.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency and a night-time curfew in parts of the Sinai Peninsula in response to the deadly attacks.

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