Hamas smuggling tunnel to Sinai (file)
Hamas smuggling tunnel to Sinai (file)Flash 90

Egypt will double to one kilometer (0.62 mile) the depth of a buffer zone it is clearing on its border with Gaza, Reuters reported on Monday.

"A decision was taken to increase the buffer zone along the border in Rafah to one kilometer. The decision...came after the discovery of underground tunnels with a total length of 800 to 1,000 meters," the state MENA news agency said.

The decision on the buffer zone was made following two deadly attacks in El-Arish, which killed dozens of soldiers and were claimed by Egypt’s deadliest terrorist group, Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis.

As part of the buffer zone plan, the Egyptian military is seizing and evacuating homes belonging to Gazans.

Residents of Sinai, who complain they have long been neglected by the state, say they rely on smuggling trade through the tunnels for their living and the creation of the buffer zone has stoked resentment. Egyptian authorities see them as a threat and regularly destroy them.

Egyptian sources have revealed that Hamas terrorists had provided the weapons for the lethal attacks in El-Arish through one of its smuggling tunnels under the border to Sinai.

In the recent Operation Protective Edge, the IDF was faced with lethal attack tunnels from under mosques, but nevertheless was hit by massive international criticism for its defensive operation - a criticism that has been completely absent regarding Egypt's "buffer zone" plan.

Egypt has been cracking down on Hamas, in recent months banning the Muslim Brotherhood offshoot and implementing a siege on Gaza.

While Egypt has deployed troops to the Sinai to fight the rampant jihadist terrorism in the region in coordination with Israel, concerns remain that the Egyptian disarmament of the peninsula as part of its peace agreement with Israel may be in danger of collapsing altogether, posing a potential military threat to Israel.