In the wake of a massive bombing in the Sinai that killed 30 Egyptian soldiers, the largest such attack in years, Egypt is preparing to clear a 500-meter wide buffer zone along its border. The zone is intended to cut down on the smuggling of weapons and supplies by Hamas to the Sinai militants, the BBC reports:
Residents living along the border with the Palestinian territory were told to evacuate their homes so that they can be demolished, local media reports.Water-filled trenches will also be used to prevent the construction of tunnels.Egyptian media accuses Gaza’s Hamas administration of aiding militants in Sinai. Hamas denies the charge. […]The planned buffer zone will reportedly stretch along the length of the 13km (8 mile) border.
A buffer along the Gaza border may have the desired effect of cutting down on terror attacks directed at Egyptian soldiers, but it will also be to the benefit of another party: Israel. Forcing the reopening of the Rafah crossing was one of the primary objectives of Hamas in the most recent Gaza war, and whether they assisted in the most recent Sinai bombing or not, it will be a lot harder for Hamas to resupply itself if it has deal with moats, barriers, trenches, and half a kilometer of empty space guarded by the Egyptian military. Nor is it simply an issue of Hamas getting weapons; smuggling is one of the primary means by which Gaza’s civilian economy is supplied as well. If Hamas was involved in the bombing, it seems they’ve made a serious strategic mistake—and provided further proof that Israel and Egypt’s strategic priorities are in close alignment.