The creation of the so-called Rafah buffer – a strip 14 kilometers long and about half a kilometer wide – came in response to last week's attack in the Sinai that killed 33 Egyptian soldiers.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who has waged war in recent months on both the smuggling tunnels from Gaza and the terrorism in the Sinai Peninsula, explained in an interview with the Kuwaiti media that "efforts continue more strongly and most of the tunnels have been closed." He again claimed that "outside hands" were behind the deadly attack, and that the Egyptian military had been able to eliminate a number of the terrorists involved.
Egypt military operations succeeded in destroying 1,500 smuggling tunnels, but the satellite photos have revealed hundreds of tunnels, inside mosques in Rafah, inside bedrooms and inside stores. Initial action led to the establishment the buffer zone and the speedy evacuation and demolition of 800 homes, with local residents compensated for their removal.
The move sparked criticism from al-Sisi's opponents, and Al-Jazeera described it as "expulsion". The Qatari network, which is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, even quoted Egyptian civilians and political activists who claimed that this was the Egyptian version of the "1948 Nakba". The Egyptian state media, on the other hand, emphasized civilian understanding for the action, and the newspaper "Al-Ahram" quoted the evacuated residents as saying that they "stand by the state after the terrorists made their lives hell."
Rocket fire from Gazan territory is defined by Israel as the first gross violation by Hamas since the end of Operation Protective Edge. It also led to the decision to close the two crossings into Gaza - Kerem Shalom for goods into southern Gaza and Erez for people in the northern Strip – both to pressure Hamas and to clearly demonstrate to Gaza's residents the price of the rocket fire.
The Israeli response comes at the height of movement of goods, funds and building materials for the rehabilitation of the thousands of homes and buildings damaged or destroyed during the summer fighting. It "joins" the closure of the Rafah crossing on the Egyptian side, and is in practice totally disconnects Gaza from the rest of the world. Hamas has already asked Egypt to open the crossing on its side, in order to prevent a humanitarian disaster.
For now, it is not clear who was behind the rocket fire at the weekend, given that Hamas has enforced the ceasefire and prevented firing at Israel - even by independent factions.
The organization itself has recently returned to experimenting with rockets inside the Gaza Strip, and in the last two weeks at least eight rockets were launched, most of the sea, and even restored its ability to produce rockets. Its activities are being conducted in a kind of political void, given that Hamas' negotiations with Israel have been frozen by Egypt.