Egyptian infantry battalion deployed in Sinai to curtail terrorist attacks on Israel

Egyptian source reports infantry deployment was coordinated with Israel because of the growing threat from Sinai militants.

 

Egypt has deployed a new infantry battalion in the Taba area of Sinai, south of Eilat, in a bid to prevent possible attacks on the Israeli resort city or on air traffic headed there, Egyptian sources said.

Egyptian Army soldiers patrol in Sinai.

Egyptian Army soldiers on duty in northern Sinai. – Photo: AP

The deployment was coordinated with Israel.

The Egyptian forces will be stationed particularly close to the Israeli border, compared with previous Egyptian deployments to which Israel has agreed.

Israel has consented to such deployments several times over the last few years even though it is expressly prohibited by  the military appendix of the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.

Egypt became particularly worried about terrorism in the area after Islamic fundamentalists affiliated with the largest terrorist organization in Sinai, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, took down an Egyptian military helicopter in January, killing five Egyptian soldiers.

The anti-aircraft missile was an advanced model that could also put Israeli aircraft at risk. This appears to be what prompted the upgraded Egyptian presence with Israeli approval.

AP

Egyptian police officers close a Cairo street after bombings in the capital and Sinai in May 2014. – Photo: AP

The number of attempted attacks on Israel from Sinai has risen since Hosni Mubarak was ousted as president in 2011. There have been two instances of infiltration into Israeli territory, one in Ein Netafim in August 2011 and the other near Kerem Shalom in August 2012, and militants in Sinai have fired rockets at Eilat and, in one instance, at a Negev army base. Eight Israelis were killed in the Ein Netafim incursion, but there were no casualties in the other incidents.

Israel-Egypt security coordination has improved greatly over the past year, roughly since Gen. Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi took power in July. Egypt has escalated its struggle against jihad groups in Sinai and has blocked off many smuggling tunnels connecting Sinai with the Gaza Strip.

Israel has praised both these moves, but is keeping a low profile about its close ties with Egypt.

 

View original HAARETZ publication at: http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.598215

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