By Sharif Paget
President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi issued a decree Saturday on the demarcation of areas adjacent to the western, southern and eastern border areas of Egypt, in an effort to secure them.
The decree authorises the armed forces to safeguard areas contiguous to the borders by prohibiting individuals “to go over or under the land”. The latter indirectly refers to the smuggling tunnels connecting the town of Rafah to the Gaza Strip.
The resolution sets forth rules regulating the presence of foreigners and Egyptians in the restricted areas.
There are two types of border areas, one classified as “forbidden” and the other as “restricted”.
In the “forbidden” zones, persons, vehicles, and any movement other than that of the armed forces are strictly prohibited. In order for police forces to enter a “forbidden” zone they would need a permit specifying the purpose and duration of the stay, in accordance with the resolution.
The “restricted” zones are open to the entry of people who have been granted permission from the armed forces, and to those who are carrying out work for the state.
People are allowed to reside in “restricted” zones if they can prove they have been residents of the area since 1 January 1987, or have assets registered in the zone before the aforementioned date.
The decree intends to demarcate all areas on the western border with the exception of the towns of Salloum, Sidi Barrani, Siwa, and Halyeb. The town of Rafah, on the eastern border, is also excluded from the rules of the decree.
The resolution allows the armed forces to take all actions and measures against anyone who violates the rules of the areas demarcated by the decree.
With clashes between rival governments and militias in Libya’s second-largest city Benghazi, Defence Minister Sedki Sobhi announced in October that troops in the western region must be ready to counter any militant threat on the Egyptian border with Libya.
After an attack by militants which killed 22 Egyptian soldiers in Egypt’s Western Desert near Libya in July, Sobhi stressed the significance of increasing security along the Egyptian-Libyan border.
The new decree regulating areas along the porous border with Libya is an indication that Egypt intends to stabilise “sensitive regions”. This would include areas “where people could have hostile intentions”, said Mohamed Qadry Saeed, a military expert at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.