Hamas: Egypt building buffer zone near Gaza

Hamas: Egypt building buffer zone near Gaza
Tue Sep 3, 2013 18:20:26

Egyptian security forces have destroyed some 20 houses along the border with Gaza in what the Palestinian Hamas movement says is an effort to build a buffer zone to isolate the coastal strip.

Egypt's military stepped up a campaign against militants in the Sinai Peninsula, bordering Gaza, after deposing president Mohamed Mursi following mass unrest, and has accused Gaza Palestinians of supporting the militants.

The crackdown, before and after Mursi's ouster, has included closures of tunnels from Gaza which were used to transfer humanitarian aids to the besieged Gaza suffering from an illegal strict blockade imposed by the Israeli regime.

Now, residents on the Egyptian side of the border say, the armed forces have also begun to tear down homes, apparently suspecting they are being used to hide tunnel entrances or provide cover for other militant activity.

The Egyptian crackdown is reminiscent of the demolitions that Israel used to carry out on the Palestinian side of the Egyptian border before it pulled troops and settlers out of the Gaza Strip in 2005.

"We reject any concept of building a buffer zone. Buffer zones should not be built between brothers and between friendly countries," said Ehab al-Ghsain, spokesman for the Hamas government in Gaza.

An Egyptian army source confirmed the military had intensified its campaign to close tunnels but said he knew of no instructions to put a buffer zone in place.

Residents on the Egyptian side of the border said that at least 20 homes had been torn down.

One resident, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters by telephone that he counted 17 destroyed houses, all located within 700 meters (yards) of the frontier.

"The Egyptian army orders people to evacuate their houses and then they knock them down, leaving residents to look for a place to stay, with relatives or friends," he said.

Hamas said Egyptian authorities were continuing to limit to 250 the number of Palestinians allowed to cross daily into Egypt from Gaza. Some 1,200 people a day used to pass through the Rafah border terminal before Mursi's removal in July.

"Gaza will never be a danger to Egypt and our battle and struggle will always remain against the Israeli occupation in defense of Palestine and the dignity of Arab and Muslim nation," Hamas said in a statement on Tuesday.

Tunnel owners have said that only a few of the 1,200 passages running under the border are still operational.


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