File: An army check point is seen in El-Arish city, in North Sinai July 15, 2013- Reuters
CAIRO – 14 October 2018: Compensations of more than LE 1.3 billion were provided to the residents, who were living along the Gaza Strip Border Crossing with Egypt in Northern Sinai to establish the buffer zone.
In an interview with "Egypt Today" program, military spokesman Tamer el-Rifai said that more than 3,000 underground tunnels connecting Egypt with Gaza Strip were found along the border in the past few years.
He added that these tunnels threaten Egypt's national security amid fears that militants could use them to smuggle weapons, ammunition, drugs and fighters inside Sinai.
Therefore, he added, Egypt’s Cabinet issued decree No.1008 of 2015 to establish a buffer zone on the borders between Egypt and Gaza to combat terrorism and prevent establishing more underground tunnels.
Rifai further remarked that the buffer zone has been constructed in phases to give the residents sufficient time to evacuate their homes, and more than LE 1.3 billion were provided to the residents as compensations.
He pointed out the Armed Forces Engineering Authority is currently working on establishing the new Rafah city with 10016 housing units.
Egypt established the buffer zone following October 2014's deadly attack on the army post at Sheikh Zuweid, Northern Sinai that killed at least 31 soldiers.
However, building the buffer zone required the army to demolish thousands of homes found in that zone and evacuate tens of thousands of residents. In return, the government has provided the residents with financial compensations.
The buffer zone will be a closed military zone constructed within 100 meters inside the Gaza strip, in order to facilitate the surveillance of borders, prevent the smuggling of arms and drugs into Egyptian territories, and cut jihadis off from their Gaza supply route.
It is equipped with surveillance cameras and watch towers.
The zone includes barbed wire, CCTV cameras and a control room to monitor the borders.
This is part of Egypt’s efforts to root out terrorism from Northern and Central Sinai.
In February 2018, army spokesman Rifai announced in a strongly worded televised statement that the military and police forces initiated Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018.
The operation involved land, naval and air forces, as well as the police and border guards, targeting "terrorist and criminal elements and organizations" in North and Central Sinai, as well as parts of the Nile Delta and the Western Desert along the porous border with Libya, strongholds of a persistent Islamic State (IS) group insurgency that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and policemen.
During the ongoing military operation, army and security forces managed to eliminate dozens of takfiri elements, seize a number of explosive devices, weapons and ammunition, and damage cannabis farms, besides other accomplishments, according to the consecutive army statements.