Egypt demolishes homes for Sinai buffer zone

Cairo, Sep 22 (IANS) Egypt has evicted and demolished the homes of 3,200 families in the Sinai peninsula in violation of international law, the Human Rights Watch said in a new report on Tuesday.

The military has been razing homes along the border with the Gaza Strip to create a “buffer zone” and eliminate smuggling tunnels, BBC reported.

According to the report, the military so far has destroyed nearly all buildings and farmland within about 1km of the Gaza border in North Sinai, using uncontrolled explosives and earth-moving equipment.

Dozens of buildings more than 1km from the frontier have also been demolished.

The Egyptian government has said the operation will allow the military to close smuggling tunnels it alleges are used by militants affiliated with Islamic State (IS) to receive weapons, fighters and logistical support from Palestinian groups in Gaza.

However, the HRW said little or no evidence has been offered to support this claim, citing statements from Egyptian and Israeli officials that suggested the jihadis heavy weapons were more likely to have been obtained from Libya or captured from the Egyptian military.

HRW added the authorities had provided residents with little or no warning of the evictions, no temporary housing, mostly inadequate compensation for their destroyed homes – none at all for their farmland – and no effective way to challenge official decisions.

The government had also failed to explain why troops had not used sophisticated tunnel-detecting equipment, for which they have received training from the US, to find and eliminate tunnels without destroying people’s homes, the HRW added.

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