CAIRO (Ma’an) — An Egyptian committee has finished surveying the homes of individuals living between 500-1,000 meters of the Gaza border in preparation for the extension of a buffer zone on the border to a width of 1,000 meters, Egyptian military sources said Friday.
The move comes after the destruction of hundreds of homes inside the 500-meter area previously, as part of a wider effort to ensure that the joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip be fully carried out.
The technical engineering committee that carried out the survey examined around 1,200 homes in the area in preparation for their demolition in the 13-kilometer long stretch of border territory.
Work on the buffer zone on the Egyptian side began in Feb. 2014, but was at the time slated to extend only about 300 meters in urban areas and 500 in rural areas.
After a bombing killed more than 30 Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai in October, however, the military stepped up the campaign to build the buffer zone amid accusations of Hamas support for the group that carried out the attack, which Hamas has strenuously denied.
Both sides of the border are densely populated as the city of Rafah originally extended in both directions, a growth that was the result of the Israeli occupation of the Sinai Peninsula for more than a decade following the 1967 war.
In the early 2000s Israeli authorities demolished thousands of homes in Palestinian Rafah in order to create a 300-meter buffer zone on the Egypt border, but after the pull-out in 2005, many moved back into the area.
The Egyptian government, which has actively destroyed smuggling tunnels underneath the border and directly targeted Hamas since a military coup in summer 2013, has now promised to uproot as many as possible to ensure the creation of a buffer zone on its side.
The border area used to be host to hundreds of tunnels which Gazans used to import goods to get around the seven-year-old Israeli siege of the territory.