Israel unlikely to allow Egypt to deploy more forces in Sinai now, say reports

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CAIRO: Israel will not approve the deployment of more Egyptian troops in Sinai soon, an Israeli newspaper quoted the Israeli prime minister as saying on Sunday.

The decision needs to be approved by cabinet first, PM Binyamin Netanyahu told the Jerusalem Post.

"Security arrangements must be dealt with, and we must invest more resources in building the barrier on the border with Egypt," Netanyahu said.

Press reports had earlier said Israel and Egypt reached an initial agreement to allow Egypt to deploy more troops along the border to prevent the infiltration of militants.

An Egyptian intelligence official told Reuters last week that Israel had been more responsive recently to Cairo’s demands for increasing its troops at the Sinai border, after rejecting such requests in the past.

"Following recent violence at the border, Israel has become more understanding of the security situation we are dealing with in Sinai," the official said speaking on condition of anonymity.

The source added that Israel and Egypt have been holding discussions on altering security arrangements in Sinai with Egypt boosting the number of its troops there.

However one day later, Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak said Israel has no intention at this time of approving extra Egyptian troops in the eastern Sinai Peninsula, Israel-based daily Haaretz reported.

An official at Barak’s bureau said: "No request has been submitted by Egypt to augment troops and if such a request is made, it will be examined in the appropriate forums. There is no automatic approval and the forces that have already been approved will depart on the agreed-on date."

Knesset Speaker MK Reuven Rivlin was quoted by Haaretz as saying he would be looking into whether any alteration of the peace agreement would require Knesset approval.

"There is an article in the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty about border security that would [allow] … the adjustment of the terms related to this issue as per the request of either party," Emad Gad, a senior researcher at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, previously told Daily News Egypt.

Egypt and Israel have seen relations strain recently following the killing of five Egyptian security personnel, including one army officer, by Israeli forces in crossfire with militants on the border on Aug. 18. The incident was preceded by three attacks that killed eight a few hours earlier in Israel.

Israeli officials were quick to blame the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip for the triple assault carried out in Israel, criticizing Egypt for losing control over security in North and South Sinai.

The killing of the Egyptian security personnel stirred the outrage of Egyptians, leading them to call for canceling the peace treaty, expelling the Israeli ambassador and recalling Egypt’s envoy from Tel Aviv.

Analysts and political forces saw it as a chance for Egypt to demand an amendment to the 1979 Peace Treaty with Israel which allows Egypt to only deploy 750 troops in Zone C covering 220 kilometers along the Egyptian border with Israel and the blockaded Gaza Strip.

No helicopters, heavy artillery or boats are allowed to be used inside this zone to protect the border which is believed to have led to the infiltration of militant groups from Gaza as well as arms trafficking.


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