4 More Egyptian soldiers get wounded in Sinai attack

In latest series of violent attacks this month in the Sinai, Militants fire rocket-propelled grenade at security convoy between Rafah & el-Arish

Egyptian security officials say militants fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a security convoy in the Sinai Peninsula, wounding three military officers and a policeman.

North Sinai, August 12, 2012

People watch as smoke rises from the burning remains of a building and vehicle in north Sinai – Photo by Reuters

The officials say the attack Saturday morning took place along a major road linking northern Sinai’s main city of el-Arish to the Egypt-Gaza border town of Rafah. The troops were returning from a raid on homes of suspected militants and had arrested two people.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media.

Earlier this month, militants killed 16 Egyptian soldiers near the Israel-Gaza border. Following the attack, Egypt launched air strikes in the region close to the border with Israel, killing at least 20-23 suspected Islamic militants.

That attack prompted authorities to take a tougher stance toward the growing militancy in the peninsula. It also led to the dismissal of Egypt’s intelligence chief and the retirement of the longtime defense minister.

Last week, Haaretz reported that the Egyptian army has been deploying large anti-terrorist forces in parts of the Sinai peninsula without informing Israel in advance. The peace treaty between the two countries limits the Egyptian military presence in Sinai.

Some of the Egyptian forces in the peninsula were sent there with Israel’s consent, but Haaretz learned that forces have also been deployed without Israel’s prior approval. Israeli government officials only learned about it after the fact. Although Israeli defense officials declined to comment on the matter, they did note that there has been good security cooperation between the two countries, adding that there is regular contact between the two sides.

According to the 1979 peace agreement negotiated at Camp David, Egypt is not allowed to introduce tanks into certain areas of Sinai, including the vicinity of Al-Arish, to which dozens of tanks have been transported over the past several days. The treaty also bars the use of fighter aircraft, including helicopters, but that was approved retroactively by the Israeli security cabinet.