The Egyptian government demolished hundreds of homes in the Sinai Peninsula this month in an act that Amnesty International condemned for being “unlawful” on Thursday. The government had said 800 homes would be destroyed and over 1,000 families displaced to create a “buffer zone” along its border with Gaza.
Authorities failed to give residents “adequate” notice of their impending eviction, and did not provide the accurate amount of compensation or alternative residences, Amnesty said.
"Egyptian authorities must halt the arbitrary demolition of hundreds of homes and mass forced evictions underway in Rafah, North Sinai,” Amnesty International said in a statement and accused the authorities of "completely ignoring key safeguards required under international law…rendering the evictions unlawful.”
The “buffer zone” will be 500 meters wide and 13.5 kilometers (8.4 miles) long, according to Agence France-Presse. The Egyptian government made the decision last month after one of the deadliest attacks in Sinai at a military checkpoint that killed 31 people. The “buffer zone” is expected to help quell what Egypt called an influx of extremist militants into the country.
Egypt has seen some of its deadliest days since Muslim Brotherhood-backed president Mohammed Morsi was ousted. After Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s brutal crackdown on Brotherhood supporters, several other violent groups have taken center stage in the country’s unrest. For example, a grassroots anti-government group called the Muslim Youth Intifada is planning a violent protest on Friday.
In terms of extremist militant groups, Egypt’s biggest threat comes from Sinai-based jihadist group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis. The militant group has been in near-constant conflict with the military and law enforcement officials in Sinai for more than a year, but rarely targets civilians. However, the extremist group recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, formerly known as ISIS. Experts said this would boost the already strong, wide-ranging belief that Egypt has a severe extremist problem.
“It does play to the narrative that there is a major terrorist threat,” Zack Gold, a visiting fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies recently told International Business Times. “In some ways it gives the government leeway to continue to act as it sees fit to counter terrorists.”