RAFAH, Egypt, Nov. 2 (UPI) — The Egyptian military began demolishing homes in the Sinai peninsula bordering the Gaza Strip Thursday in an attempt to create a buffer zone that would stanch the flow of militants and weapons between countries.
Roughly 10,000 residents of the town of Rafah were given 48 hours to leave their homes in order for the Egyptian military to create the 8-mile long, nearly 550-yard deep buffer zone.
The New York Times reports that despite being surprised by the ultimatum, residents of Rafah quietly migrated away and collected compensation, and that the lack of active opposition to the move illustrates Egyptian support for the Cairo government’s anti-insurgent campaign.
The demolitions follow late October insurgent attacks in Sinai that killed 31 Egyptian soldiers.
One of the displaced told Al-Monitor that the government was offering him a three-month housing allowance of 300 Egyptian pounds, or $41.
“Will someone tell them that moving our belongings costs 1,000 Egyptian pounds [$139]?” the man said. “Will someone tell them that renting a humble apartment to shield us from the cold costs 1,000 Egyptian pounds a month? Will someone tell the world that the allowances remain ink on paper?”
Qatari-funded newspaper al-Araby al-Jadeed quoted an unnamed Western diplomat who said that the buffer was spawned from the Egyptian-proposed ceasefire in Gaza that Israel agreed to in August, which ended nearly two months of Israeli military operations in the area bordering Sinai. In return for a halt to the fighting, Israel allegedly demanded that Egypt create the buffer with Gaza.
“We lived here and our ancestors lived here,” another of the displaced told Al-Monitor. “Many occupation armies have passed by: the Ottomans, British, French and Jews. But we remained here and no one was able to displace us. We remained here and we protected our homeland from their evil. In a flash, our history is being taken away.”