CAIRO: Residents in North Sinai along the Egyptian-Palestinian border were forced to leave their homes for the second day in a row as military forces demolished houses to build a buffer zone along the 14 kilometer border.
The military started Wednesday to evacuate residents in Rafah in order to get rid of “terrorist hotspots” in the region, and to prevent infiltration from and to both sides after a militant attack killed over 30 military personnel Friday in Arish, the State-run MENA reported.
North Sinai governor Abdel Fatah Harhour said in a phone call to Al-Hayat Al-Youm talk show Wednesday evening that the total number of houses targeted along the border is 802, of which 74 have already been demolished and 122 ruined after the destruction of tunnels beneath them.
The army destroyed six smuggling tunnels along the border last Thursday, ONTV reported.
Harhour said in remarks to reporters at the governorate headquarters that 900 EGP ($125.86) will be given to evacuees as compensation for renting a house for three months in Shiekh Zuwayed city, but the amount will not cover food or livelihood.
Harhour added that new pieces of land will be given to the residents to build new houses, Youm7 reported.
Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab Wednesday issued a decision to forcedly evacuate five districts in Rafah in North Sinai where a state of emergency was declared by the National Defense Council Friday after an emergency meeting over the Arish attack.
He added that the evacuees will receive compensations in accordance with the law and be given alternate places to live, according to a statement from the Cabinet office.
Those who refuse to leave their houses will be forcibly removed and their houses taken, the statement added. The districts include Abu Shannar, al-Rosoum and territory north of Sadat Square and south of Madfouna.
Voices against eviction
Political activists voiced their opposition against removing residents; Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) member Gamal Eid said on his Twitter account that evacuating the border of people is not a solution, as it contradicts the Constitution.
He wrote that article 63 of the Constitution bans forced and arbitrary eviction against citizens.
Sisi said, according to the video, that evacuating people in Sinai would create “enemies,” adding that accomplishing security would be by “presence, not fighting.”
Hamas has criticized the establishment of the military buffer zone in North Sinai following militant attacks. “The buffer zone the Egyptian Army wants to establish along the border with Gaza supports [the Israeli] blockade,” said Osama Hemdan, a Hamas foreign affairs official, in a statement Sunday evening.
They said the buffer zone would worsen the humanitarian situation in Gaza by cutting off access to essential goods. The buffer zone is 500 meters in width and 15 kilometers in length.
However, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas expressed his support for Egyptian measures being taken along the border, saying in a statement published by the Palestinian News Agency (WAFA) Sunday, “We stand beside Egypt’s leadership, government and people. We support all measures to be taken by the Egyptian leadership in order to maintain security and stability in Egypt, and to face the terrorism in the Sinai.”
Jihadists in Sinai
Al-Qaeda inspired militant groups—including Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and Ajnad Misr (Soldiers of Egypt)—have since the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi on July 3, 2013 waged attacks targeting the military and security personnel in Sinai and police forces in Cairo, Giza and other governorates.
No group has yet taken official responsibility for the Arish attack, although some Egyptian media outlets claimed Islamic State group members celebrated the attack on their website “Jihadist Media Platform.”
However, Ajnad Misr did announce on Oct. 22 it was responsible for an explosion near Cairo University that injured 11 people, according to a statement published on a Twitter account affiliated with the group.