Egypt begins work on Gaza buffer zone
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Egypt begins work on Gaza buffer zone

Official says move, which entails demolition of hundreds of homes, is ‘vital for national security’

An Egyptian Army vehicle with a tank heads to the closed Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza strip, in Sheikh Zuweyid, northern Sinai, Egypt, Monday, May 20, 2013 (AP Photo/Roger Anis, El Shorouk Newspaper)
An Egyptian Army vehicle with a tank heads to the closed Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza strip, in Sheikh Zuweyid, northern Sinai, Egypt, Monday, May 20, 2013 (AP Photo/Roger Anis, El Shorouk Newspaper)

CAIRO — Egypt began setting up a buffer zone along its border with Gaza Wednesday to prevent militant infiltration and arms smuggling following a wave of deadly attacks.

The move, which is set to result in the demolition of hundreds of homes, comes after a suicide bombing in the Sinai Peninsula killed at least 30 soldiers on Friday.

A senior official in northern Sinai said the creation of the buffer with the Palestinian territory was “vital for national security and stability.”

The authorities want to establish a 500-meter wide buffer along about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) of the border with Gaza, according to officials.

They said about 800 homes would be demolished.

Witnesses in the border town of Rafah reported seeing dozens of families leaving along with trucks loaded with furniture.

Bulldozers were reported to have begun destroying several long-abandoned houses along the frontier.

Egypt suspects Palestinian militants of aiding jihadist attacks that have increased since the army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last year.

The military has also stepped up the destruction of tunnels with Gaza that it says are used to smuggle arms.

Following Friday’s bombing, Egypt imposed a three-month state of emergency in parts of northern Sinai and closed the Rafah crossing into Gaza — the only entry to the Palestinian territory not controlled by Israel.

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has said the attack was carried out with “external support,” ordering heightened security measures.

Nobody has claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Jihadists in the peninsula have killed scores of policemen and soldiers since Morsi’s overthrow, vowing revenge against a police crackdown on his supporters that has left more than 1,400 dead.

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