THE LEVANT – Egyptian authorities have ordered local residents living in Northern Sinai close to the Gaza Strip border to evacuate during the next 48 hours due to the government’s plans to create a buffer zone along the Gaza border. The houses of the residents are expected to be demolished during the ongoing military operation.
These measures came days after deadly terrorist attacks against Egyptian soldiers in Northern Sinai, near Rafah, Sheikh-Zuweid and Al-Arish cities. The attacks left 33 soldiers dead and dozens injured. Hours after the attacks Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has organized an urgent meeting of National Defense Council to discuss the situation and to take the measures to confront terrorism and to restore stability and security in the restive Sinai Peninsula, where jihadists’ attacks against Egyptian Army and police forces became a grim reality since ouster of Mohamed Morsi.
Massive military operation was launched in the region, involving special troops and aircraft, bombing the terrorists’ hideouts. President has declared state of emergency in Sinai, including imposing the curfew. One of the government’s decisions in the framework of the ongoing military operation aimed to target the terrorists and eliminate their activities was creation of a special buffer zone near the border with Gaza.
Egypt earlier closed its Rafah border crossing into Gaza, the only one non-Israeli entrance to the enclave. The next step is setting up a buffer zone and evacuation of the local residents. This measure is expected to help Egyptian army destroying the underground tunnels being used for weapon traffic from Gaza, controlled by Hamas.
Hamas in its turn reacted negatively on the plans of creating the buffer zone, claiming it will only strengthen Israeli occupation of Gaza and has nothing to do with security in Sinai. Egyptian society, activists and politicians have also different stances regarding the issue, as some of the praised the decision of Egyptian government, while the others criticized it.
Egyptian Armed Forces officials talked to the journalists on conditions of anonymity and said the Army officers have spoken in person to the affected citizens and given them 48 hours to evacuate before the beginning of the operation. But it was put on hold after the local residents organized protest.
Sources Al Jazeera