“90% of the total number of houses within 500 metres of the [Gaza] border have been evacuated,” head of the North Sinai Governorate Office, Brigadier General Mohamed Abdel Moneim, said on Tuesday.
He further noted that so far more than EGP 100m have been disbursed to compensate the families that have been displaced from their homes.
The Information and Decision Support Centre (IDSC) noted earlier in November that 1,156 families living within 500 meters of the border with Gaza were set to be evacuated to establish a ‘secure zone’ and destroy smuggling tunnels.
This is the first phase of the evacuation process; however, further expansion of the ‘secure zone’ has yet to be determined, said Abdel Moneim.
The creation of the buffer zone is one of the security measures the armed forces have undertaken in order to “ultimately eliminate terrorism” in the area of North Sinai, where militant attacks against security forces have become increasingly frequent ever since the ousting of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.
The destruction of the tunnels connecting Rafah to Gaza aims to end “terrorist infiltration” and the smuggling weapons, according to the armed forces.
Egypt’s armed forces recently decided to expand the ‘secure zone’ to 1km along the Egypt-Gaza border after discovering tunnels that were more than 800 metres long, according to state-run MENA.
The military spokesman, however, said the armed forces have yet to begin the expansion of the ‘secure zone’.
Sinai based militant group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis (ABM) has claimed dozens of attacks targeting the armed forces and state security apparatuses, claiming that 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”.
ABM also claimed the killing of 30 security personnel on 24 October. In early November, the group announced its allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) and rebranded itself “State of Sinai”.
President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi noted in a statement following the attack that “foreign elements” supported the attacks on military checkpoints in North Sinai. Al-Sisi issued a decree two days after the incident, stating that whoever attacks the state’s vital facilities or security personnel on duty will be referred to military prosecution.