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Human Rights Watch says civilians harmed as Egypt military creates northern Sinai buffer zone

FILE - In this March 23, 2014, file photo, members of the Egyptian security forces demonstrate their formation skills during a ceremony in Cairo, Egypt. Human Rights Watch said in a report Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, the Egypt's military campaign against Islamic extremists in northern Sinai is harming thousands of civilians and risks turning more individuals against the government. (AP Photo/Mohammed Abu Zaid, File)

FILE - In this March 23, 2014, file photo, members of the Egyptian security forces demonstrate their formation skills during a ceremony in Cairo, Egypt. Human Rights Watch said in a report Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, the Egypt's military campaign against Islamic extremists in northern Sinai is harming thousands of civilians and risks turning more individuals against the government. (AP Photo/Mohammed Abu Zaid, File)  (The Associated Press)

A rights organization says the Egyptian military's campaign against Islamic insurgents in northern Sinai is harming civilians and risks turning people against the government.

Human Rights Watch says in a report Tuesday that the government has evicted 3,200 families over the past two years and razed farmland and homes in its bid to destroy illegal smuggling tunnels connecting Egypt's northern Sinai Peninsula with the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by the militant group Hamas.

Egypt has been battling a long-running insurgency in the region, which escalated after the military ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July 2013 and cracked down on Islamic groups. A local Islamic State affiliate has been claiming responsibility for militant attacks in northern Sinai.

Egypt's presidency, government and foreign ministry spokesmen didn't answer calls seeking comment.