Photo Credit: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash 90
A Palestinian tunnel worker lights a cigarette for his colleague inside a smuggling tunnel dug beneath the Gaza-Egypt border in the southern Gaza Strip on August 27, 2013. Egyptian security forces have stepped up a crackdown campaign on smuggling tunnels as part of the establishment of a no man's land along the border.

The Egyptian army bulldozed 13 homes along Egypt’s border with the Gaza, and destroyed the smuggling tunnels running underneath the homes, in a move that is being interpreted as the creation of a buffer zone to reduce weapon smuggling and terrorists crossings, AP reported on Sunday.

The heavy demolition enraged the residents of the damaged homes, who said they were being evicted for no fault of their own and with no compensation.

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The military is planning to establish a building-free zone with no trees about 500 yards wide and 6 miles long, from the Rafah border crossing to the Mediterranean Sea, Northern Sinai government officials told AP.

The homes were destroyed over the past 10 days to test the buffer zone idea in el-Sarsoriya, a few miles from the Rafah crossing. At the same time, explosives were used to cave in the tunnels.

This is near the area where anti-Israeli activists, including the late Rachel Corrie, used to protest the work of Israeli bulldozers. Needless to say, the Egyptian bulldozers did not run into any international protest whatsoever, and they seemed to manage the local rage without much problem. Residents angered by the bulldozing staged a sit-in protest in Rafah Sunday, but few in the world are paying attention.

Egypt’s government and the military have been trying to control the vast and lawless northern Sinai, where Islamic terrorists have forged strongholds from which they attack security forces. They have been using Homes and trees along the Gaza border as cover from which they would fire at Egyptian forces across the border.

Ehab Ghussein, a spokesman for the Hamas government in Gaza, told AP the new buffer zone constitutes “a new blockade on Gaza,” increasing civilian suffering.

“Buffer zones are not needed between neighboring countries that have historical and social relations,” Ghussein said, suggesting what was needed was a free trade zone at the Egypt-Gaza border.

According to one tribal leader, many more homes have been demolished. He said the bulldozers just show up without notice, the Egyptian army gives residents a short time to gather their belongings, and down come the buildings. The government has not offered compensation for the lost homes.

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