The Egyptian armed forces discovered and blew up a 1,200 metre long smuggling tunnel running under the Egypt-Gaza border on Saturday.
The tunnel’s entrance on the Egyptian side was located beyond the current “phase two” buffer zone, which extends up to 1km from the border, a representative from the armed forces press office told Daily News Egypt.
Further phases, which have yet to begin, will eventually establish a 5 kilometre buffer zone and will result in the forced evacuation of the entire town of Rafah. The purpose of the ‘buffer zone’ is to destroy all smuggling tunnels connecting Egypt to the Gaza Strip, according to the armed forces. Its creation was announced days after the deadliest militant attack in North Sinai, which occurred on 24 October and resulted in the deaths of at least 30 army personnel.
This is not the longest tunnel found in the area; a tunnel found in late December measured a total of 1,700 metres.
The armed forces press representative noted that the tunnel is used for smuggling “terrorists and weapons” across the border. He added that weapons and explosives were found within the tunnel.
The tunnel entrance was found inside a house belonging to “an Egyptian smuggler” in the town of Rafah.
Accordingly residents of the area were planned to be relocated with compensation given to them in return for their leaving their land and houses. The first phase of the relocation process, which is now completed, covered the first 500 metres from the Rafah border, and involved the demolition of 837 houses.
The second phase, currently underway, covers the next 500 metres and it officially began on 4 January.
North Sinai Governor Abdel Fattah Harhour previously told Daily News Egypt that people who had infiltrating tunnels inside their houses will not be compensated for their houses or lands.