Israel becoming concerned by Egypt's Sinai deployment

Monday, August 20, 2012 |  Ryan Jones

Last week, a leading Israeli media analyst suggested that Israel's government should be more concerned about Egypt's growing military deployment in the Sinai Peninsula, instead of focusing all its worries on Iran.

"The development that, more than any other, should set off warning bells in Jerusalem, is the unilateral action taken by the Egyptians in Sinai during the past few days," wrote Ha'aretz columnist Avi Issacharoff.

"While Israel is prattling itself to death on the Iranian issue, the decision makers here are choosing not to respond to the fact that Egypt is moving forces into Sinai, contrary to the terms of the peace agreement," Issacharoff continued.

Earlier this summer, Israel did approve the deployment of additional Egyptian soldiers to Sinai to help battle the regional terror groups taking root there. Members of many of Sinai's Bedouin tribes have in recent years joined the ranks of groups like Hizballah and Al Qaeda. Two weeks ago, the members of one such group killed 17 Egyptian soldiers while perpetrating a cross-border raid into southern Israel.

However, it now appears that Egypt is deploying forces far beyond what Israel approved (the 1979 Camp David Accords put strict limits on the amount of forces Egypt can deploy in Sinai). According to some reports, in addition to a much larger than expected number of infantry, Egypt is also rolling armored forces into Sinai.

Issacharoff called the deployment the "most extensive activity by the [Egyptian] army in Sinai since the Yom Kippur War 39 years ago." And that should be cause for concern.

At present, those forces are ostensibly being used to root out terrorist forces, which would ultimately benefit Israel, too. But officials believe Egypt is only going to do what it needs to placate public opinion at home, and nothing more. In the meantime, those new forces deployed to Sinai are not likely to be removed.

On top of all this, Egypt is now ruled by a group that maintains as one of its long-term goals the destruction of Israel. And just last week, the Muslim Brotherhood removed the former heads of Egypt's military and installed more compliant generals.

Anyone not seeing these developments as cause for concern has his or her head in the sand.

According to pan-Arab newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Israel's government is indeed concerned, and has asked Cairo to withdraw its armored forces from Sinai. Experts have noted that tanks and armored vehicles will at any rate be useless against the mountain-entrenched Bedouin forces in central Sinai.

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