Egypt builds up troop level in Sinai desert
Cairo: The Egyptian military is building up troop deployment in the Sinai desert to deal with increasingly aggressive Islamic militants.
As per reports, troops, light tanks, armored vehicles and attack helicopters are all moving to the Sinai desert, which had been demilitarized as part of a key provision in the landmark 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
Egyptian soldiers with heavy weapons have not ventured into the peninsula for the last 30 years in order to create a buffer between the longtime enemies. But now, Israel has allowed the build-up hoping militants knocking on its doorstep will be defeated.
But talk of formally changing the treaty remains just that, talk.
The reason may lie in the delicate realities of the new Egypt, where the fiercely anti-Israel Muslim Brotherhood has risen to political power — with one of its own as Egypt`s first President since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak last year. The Islamist group has said that Egypt will continue to abide by the accord. At the same time, it has repeatedly called for changes in the treaty`s limits on troops in Sinai, seen as humiliating.
But its calls may be mainly rhetoric for an Egyptian public among which anti-Israel feeling is high and amending the deal is popular.
Actually renegotiating the accord would require diplomatic gymnastics for the Brotherhood to keep its vow never to meet with Israeli officials. And any deal could be spun as the Brotherhood signing a peace agreement with its nemesis, no matter how much technical deniability the group tries to maintain.
Israel is willing to bend troop limits. But it is tepid to formal amendments for fear of enshrining too much firepower on its border, especially when Egypt`s post-Mubarak future remains unclear.
The BBC meanwhile reported that Bedouin tribal leaders have agreed to help restore security in the lawless Sinai border area with the Gaza Strip and Israel.
In talks with Interior Minister Ahmed Gamal al-Din, they also backed plans to destroy smuggling tunnels into Gaza.
(With Agency inputs)
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