North Sinai authorities finished surveying houses in the second phase of the implementation of a buffer zone along the Gaza border, with another 1,200 houses expected to be evacuated and demolished.
Abdel Fattah Harhour, North Sinai governor, announced Monday that the area is ready for evacuation, as the survey is now complete, state-run MENA reported.
He also referred to Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb’s decree to establish a 5km-wide buffer zone, and said that the rest of the area will be evacuated in several phases.
Egypt first decided to establish a 500 metre buffer zone in late October, following two deadly attacks in Sinai that left at least 30 military personnel dead. The border with Gaza measures 13km in length.
Egypt’s cabinet issued a decree to evacuate the area with compensation for residents, and military forces then demolished evacuated houses. Harhour estimated in press statements that the number of affected houses to be 820 that housed 1,165 families.
Egypt’s armed forces decided in November to expand the ‘secure zone’ to 1km along the Egypt-Gaza border after discovering tunnels that were more than 800 metres long, according to MENA.
The militant group ‘State of Sinai’, formerly known as Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, has claimed dozens of attacks targeting the armed forces and state security apparatuses. The group claimed the actions are justified because the authorities “are taking the side of Jews and Christian allies who are tightening the siege on the people in Gaza”.
‘State of Sinai’ also claimed the 24 October attack that led to the announcement of the buffer zone. In early November, the group announced its allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS).
A technical engineering committee from the border city of Rafah’s council carried out a survey examining approximately 1,200 homes in the second phase area. The inspection came in preparation for their demolition in the 13km long stretch of border territory, according to Palestinian news agency Ma’an.
Harhour said that more that EGP 234m were disbursed as compensation to the evacuated residents from the first phase. He also mentioned that a “new Rafah city will be established behind the buffer zone to resettle residents”.