Egypt to begin expanding Gaza buffer zone next week

Egypt said Tuesday work will begin next week to double the width of a buffer zone being built along the border with the Gaza Strip to prevent militants infiltrating from the Palestinian enclave.

A 500-metre (546-yard) wide buffer zone is now being built along some 10 kilometres (six miles) of the border, with some 800 homes being demolished in the process.

Work will begin next week to expand it by another 500 metres, North Sinai provincial Governor Abdel Fattah Harhur said.

Harhur told AFP he had met families from the area to be evacuated and told them they needed to inform authorities of the border city of Rafah whether they want financial compensation or alternative housing.

Construction of the buffer zone comes in the wake of an October 24 suicide bombing that killed 30 Egyptian soldiers and wounded scores more.

After that incident, Egypt declared a three-month emergency in parts of North Sinai, a remote but strategic region bordering Israel and Gaza.

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

The army has also stepped up destruction of tunnels from Gaza that it says are used to smuggle arms, food and money by the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

It says it has destroyed more than 1,600 tunnels since Morsi's ouster.

Jihadists in the Sinai Peninsula have killed scores of policemen and soldiers since the overthrow, vowing revenge against a police crackdown on Morsi supporters that has killed more than 1,400 people.

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