Smoke rises after a house is blown up during a military operation by Egyptian security forces in the Egyptian city of Rafah, near the border with southern Gaza Strip October 29, 2014. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
By Yusri Mohamed
ISMALIA, Egypt Oct 29 (Reuters) - Egypt began clearing residents from its border with the Gaza Strip on Wednesday to create a buffer zone following some of the worst anti-state violence since President Mohamed Mursi was overthrown last year.
"If any resident resists leaving the area in a cordial manner, their property ... will be forcibly seized," read the decree signed by Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb.
Egypt declared a state of emergency in the border area after at least 33 security personnel were killed on Friday in two attacks in the Sinai Peninsula, a remote but strategic region bordering Israel, Gaza and the Suez Canal.
A teacher at a border area school said the government, which approved the buffer zone plan at its cabinet meeting on Wednesday, should have given residents more notice and compensated them before asking them to leave.
"What is happening will reduce people's love for their nation and make them lose trust in the government," said the teacher, who declined to be named.
One resident said people in the area had been given three options: money to compensate for their property, an apartment in a nearby village or a plot of land on which to build.
Each displaced family is due to receive 900 Egyptian pounds($125) to help pay for three months rent elsewhere, Harhour said, while compensation for lost property is being calculated.
INCREASING ARMY CONTROL
Border residents say about 680 houses are set to be demolished. Security forces have previously destroyed about 200 houses on the border after discovering entrances inside to smuggling tunnels leading into the Gaza Strip .
Security sources said residents living within 300 meters (yards) of the border were being evicted in the first phase of the plan. The next phase will cover another 200 meter-deep strip.
Residents of Sinai, which has long been neglected by the state, say they rely on the tunnels for their livelihoods. But Egyptian security forces see them as a security threat and regularly destroy them.
As well as clearing a border strip, Egypt has expanded the jurisdiction of military courts to try civilians who block roads or damage state facilities and has authorised the army to help guard roads, bridges, oil fields and other public installations.
A commander from Ansar has told Reuters that Islamic State has advised it on operating more effectively.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who overthrew Mursi last year, has since cracked down on the former president's Muslim Brotherhood, banning it and jailing thousands of its members.
Militant attacks in Sinai have increased since Mursi's overthrow. The Brotherhood, which says it is a peaceful movement, has distanced itself from the violence and condemned Friday's attack. (1 US dollar = 7.1500 Egyptian pound) (Additional reporting by Nidal Al Mughrabi in Gaza; Writing by Lin Noueihed; Editing by Tom Heneghan)