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      Egypt Creating Buffer Zone Along Gaza Border

      Egypt continues its crackdown on Gaza’s Hamas rulers, destroys 10 smuggling tunnels.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 2/16/2014, 4:42 AM

      Egyptian soldiers in Rafiah
      Egyptian soldiers in Rafiah
      Flash 90

      Egypt is continuing its crackdown not only on Sinai terrorism but on Gaza’s Hamas rulers as well.

      The Bethlehem-based Ma’an news agency reported that Egyptian border forces destroyed 10 tunnels and seven homes in the Sinai on Saturday, as part of new campaign to create a buffer zone along the border with Gaza that would extend 500 meters in some places.

      The campaign began with a military operation in the border town of Rafiah, where tunnels leading into Gaza were targeted in the neighborhoods of al-Brahma, al-Sarsuriya, Salahudeen, al-Helwat, and Zoraba, an Egyptian security source told Ma’an.

      The security source added that the tunnels were destroyed and the homes they were located in were subsequently blown up.

      He explained that the move was part of a wider campaign to set up a buffer zone along the border with Gaza that would extend 300 meters in populated areas and 500 meters in open areas.

      The Egyptian security source also told Ma'an that Egyptian army forces on Saturday successfully neutralized three explosive devices placed in military vehicles and armored cars in Sheikh Zuwaid, including two that were placed near the Sheikh Zuweid Hospital and a third on the road to a nearby village south of Sheikh Zuewid.

      He added that army forces raided "militant strongholds" in the village of al-Kharuba south of Sheikh Zuweid and destroyed three homes and five “hideouts,” according to Ma’an.

      They also destroyed an olive grove that was reportedly used to hide militants following attacks taking place on the nearby road to Rafiah International crossing.

      While the government of former Islamist president Mohammed Morsi was friendly with Hamas, the military-led government that ousted him has cracked down on the group, which it accuses of a December attack on Egyptian police headquarters, and planning church bombings in Sinai last Christmas.

      Hamas has denied the Egyptian government’s allegations, claiming they were an “attempt to demonize Hamas”.

      Egypt has been clamping down on the smuggling tunnels which are used to smuggle goods but also arms and terrorists between Gaza and the Sinai.

      Sources in Egypt recently hinted that now that the Egyptian military has taken care of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, its offshoot Hamas was next.