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Egypt expands buffer zone along Gaza border

Move comes amid efforts to cut off the flow of weapons and militants

Gulf News

Cairo: Egypt’s military has bulldozed at least 140 homes and cleared more than 200 acres along the Gaza Strip border, expanding a buffer zone in an effort to cut off the flow of weapons and militants.

The governor of Northern Sinai province, Major-General Abdul Fatah Harhour, told AP late on Monday that the military had begun clearing the zone, which is 1,500 metres wide and 10km long.

Egypt has struggled to combat a Daesh (self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) led insurgency in the northern Sinai since 2014, and built the buffer zone to prevent militants from using a vast tunnel network under the border that was used to evade a decades-long Israeli and Egyptian blockade on the territory.

Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that rules Gaza, has also worked to secure the border in recent months as it tries to improve ties with Cairo.

Hamas has cracked down on more extreme rivals, including supporters of Daesh.

Harhour said the government has promised to compensate those who lost their homes and farms.

“We have created committees to list those who should receive such compensation,” he said.

He said the residents at first received cheques worth 3,000 Egyptian pounds (nearly $170; Dh624) each to pay for “alternative accommodation.”

However, a tribal leader, Shaikh Eisa Karafin, said some evacuees haven’t received the money yet.

Karafin left Rafah last year to relocate to the Suez Canal city of Esmailia after threats from Daesh militants.

He said the military came in August, asking people to collect their belongings and leave the area as soon as possible.

Karafin said he has helped over two dozen of the evicted families find places to live in Esmailia over the past two weeks.

One resident said he and his family live in a desert area, “in huts with no electricity or water.”

He spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from authorities.

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