NEW YORK, Sept. 22 (UPI) -- Egypt may have broken international law in demolishing 3,200 homes on the Sinai border with Gaza to establish a buffer zone, a rights group said Tuesday.
An 84-page report by New York-based Human Rights Watch said a 45 square-mile buffer zone between Egypt and Gaza on the Sinai Peninsula is in the process of being cleared of 3,200 families and acres of ruined farmland, with little warning or compensation for the residents. The land has been Egyptian territory since 1973.
Forcibly evicted residents have protections under United Nations and African conventions, to which Egypt is a signatory. Human Rights Watch said the demolition of homes may have violated international law.
Egypt began developing the buffer zone in July 2013 on orders of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, to destroy smuggling tunnels between Egypt and Gaza and to help the fight against Islamic State loyalists in the area. The plan includes the complete demolition of the city of Rafah and the relocation of its 78,000 residents.
"Destroying homes, neighborhoods and livelihoods is a textbook example of how to lose a counterinsurgency campaign," said Sarah Leah Whitson of HRW in a statement. "Egypt needs to explain why it didn't use available technology to detect and destroy the tunnels and instead wiped entire neighborhoods off the map."
The report said displaced residents of the area were typically not offered financial reperations or an "effective way to challenge their eviction, home demolition or compensation."