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Egypt Deploys More Troops in Sinai

Egypt has deployed 1,500 more troops in the Sinai ahead of more 'counter-terror' operations with Israeli approval.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 8/29/2011, 8:35 PM

Egypt deployed 1,500 more troops in the Sinai Peninsula on Monday following an agreement with Israel to increase the number of Egyptian troops in the peninsula's areas B and C, London-based al Hayat reported.

Former Egyptian Ambassador to Israel Muhammed Basioni told the newspaper "the Egypt-Israel peace treaty provides in clause 4 that each one of the sides can amend the security arrangements if the other side agrees to it."

"Egypt relied on this article – which prohibits the entrance of Egyptian military forces into area C and allows only police force presence – in order to amend its deployment arrangements in the area," he said.

According to Basioni, "In 2008, Palestinians infiltrated Egypt from the Gaza Strip. Egypt then asked for the deployment of 750 border guard officers and the request was granted.

"Following recent security developments in Sinai, the authorities decided to launch a wide-scale security operation with large military and police forces, and to that end we requested to scour the area between Rafah, al-Arish and Sheikh Zawid," the former ambassador said.

"We've reinforced our deployment to 1,500 soldiers and armored vehicles in areas B and C," stated Basioni without saying when the forces entered the area.

At the beginning of the year, the Israeli government unexpectedly decided to allow the Egyptian army to deploy 800 soldiers in the peninsula, for the first time since signing the peace agreement more than three decades ago. Last month Israel allowed a further deployment in the name of counter-terror operations.

But the move may not go unchallenged. Last week Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin challenged Defense Minister Ehud Barak's decision to allow Egypt to deploy tanks and helicopters in the Sinai saying such a move may require Knesset approval.   

Rivlin noted that adjusting deployments along the Philadephia Corridor when Israel controlled Gaza required such approval.

In the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty, the Sinai Peninsula was declared as a demilitarized zone and was divided into areas A, B and C, with the latter only open to international peacekeepers and Egyptian civilian police forces.

Anti-Israel sentiments, demands to nullify the Camp David Accords, and demands for return of territory ceded to Israel under the accords, have grown in Egypt since the January 25 ouster of long-term President Hosni Mubarak. Fears that the deployment may be a ploy similar to that of Gamal Abdul Nasser before the 1967 war are being voiced by some commentators.

Meanwhile, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz has ordered a reinforcement of army presence on the Israel-Egypt border, ostensibly due to increased terror warnings in the area.