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The Wilderness of Sinai
Egypt Clears out a "Smuggler Buffer" on Gaza Border

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.

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  • wigwag

    Can’t wait to see if Ban Ki-moon criticizes the Egyptian blockade of Gaza with the same exuberance as he criticizes the Israeli blockade.

    • Andrew Allison

      Don’t hold your breath!

    • Dan

      You mean when he criticizes it, not if he does. If it was a question of ‘if’ that might expose a double standard and that is simply preposterous.

  • Pete

    “Water-filled trenches will also be used to prevent the construction of tunnels.”

    That could be a good idea. I guess it depends on the geology and the depth of the trench …. and availability of water.

    • GS

      There is a sea at the Western end of it. It does not follow from anywhere that the water in the trench should be fresh and not salt. And the trench excavation can be done with the past-the-shelf-life explosives, which would have to be discarded anyway.

      • f1b0nacc1

        Given the spiritual predilictions of the smugglers, perhaps adding some remnants from a pig-rendering plant to the water might be a useful addition as well.

  • B-Sabre

    Whether or not Hamas was involved in the bombing, it’s probably a good bet that somebody in Gaza (like a more radical Islamist militia) was. In any event, the Egyptian Army views Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood as two sides of the same coin, and crippling Hamas deprives the MB of a nearby sanctuary to operate from.

  • Fat_Man

    The most important development in the Middle East this summer was the creation of a de-facto alliance between Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

    The Obama Administration will have to give up its delusion that a useful deal can be made with Iran before it can use this new phenomenon to the advantage of peace and stability in the region.

    • GS

      If they give up their delusions, what would be left of them? Empty footwear?

      • Fat_Man

        The more important question is what would be left of us?

  • GS

    A 20 x 20 x 13000 trench means excavating some 5 million cubic meters. A serious project, it could take a few years.

    • Josephbleau

      I could to it in 40 days with 5 cat 777 trucks and 2 911 loaders. Give me a d 10 dozer too.

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