CAIRO: Sinai is not a demilitarized zone and has more than 20,000 soldiers, said head of the Shoura Council’s foreign affairs committee and former ambassador to Israel Mohamed Bassiouny.
Giving a lecture at a youth center in Abu Qir in Alexandria last Saturday, Bassiouny said that Sinai was split into zones and in one of the zones he said was considered the main line of defense between Egypt and Israel there were 22,000 soldiers. This zone is the furthest from the border with Israel.
According to Bassiouny, 230 tanks, 240 armored cars, 120 ground cannon and 120 anti-aircraft cannon were also present in that zone. In the next zone there are four regiments of border guards who also fall under the umbrella of the Egyptian army. The third zone contains one regiment of border guards as well as Egyptian police.
“I feel the troop presence we have in Sinai gives us the maximum protection, Bassiouny told Daily News Egypt Tuesday.
Under the terms of Israeli withdrawal of Sinai, it was split into four zones and the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel placed restrictions on the types and number of troop movements in the area. Additionally, a UN force is permanently present at the border in the [4th] Interim Buffer Zone.
Tagammu party secretary general in the town of Sheikh Zowayed which lies only 10 km from the border Mustapha Singer told Daily News Egypt, “The zone we are in is completely demilitarized except for local policemen. This zone contains 80 percent of the entire population of Northern Sinai so it seems the state has ignored this part and doesn’t consider it part of Egypt’s defense.
“It’s as if he [Bassiouny] is saying we are not part of Egypt’s defense plan and are not under the Egyptian army’s protection, he added, “The Camp David Accords reduced Egyptian sovereignty over its own land and the regime seems more concerned with Israel’s safety rather than its own citizens in the area.
The annex to Article III of the treaty governs security arrangements in the zones along the border and the level of military or police involvement in each zone, whether aerially, by sea or on the ground.
One of the caveats regarding the peace treaty with Israel is the demilitarization of parts of Sinai near the buffer zone.
“You do not control Sinai completely, is that fair? There are many things in this treaty that need changing, former coordinator of the Kefaya movement George Ishaq told Daily News Egypt last March.
Deputy Head of the Muslim Brotherhood Mohamed Habib also told Daily News Egypt at the time, “Sinai is not completely under our control so the Egyptian regime should take another look at this treaty and it should be subjected to a national referendum.