A member of the Egyptian security forces on patrol in El-Arish on the Sinai peninsula earlierr this month
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said that if Egypt asked to increase its troops in the Sinai peninsula, the request would be brought before the security cabinet, public radio said. © - - AFP/File
A member of the Egyptian security forces on patrol in El-Arish on the Sinai peninsula earlierr this month
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AFP
Last updated: August 29, 2011

Israel might let Egypt boost Sinai troops

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said that if Egypt asked to increase its troops in the Sinai peninsula, the request would be brought before the security cabinet, public radio said.

Netanyahu's remarks were made at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting some 10 days after a series of deadly attacks on a desert road near the Egyptian border by gunmen who infiltrated from the Sinai.

So far, Cairo has not asked Israel to approve an increase of troops in the restive peninsula -- where the number of Egyptian forces are limited by terms of the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty.

"Until now, there has been no demand for more troops in the Sinai and it is not on the agenda," a senior defence ministry official told AFP on Sunday.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said that since the fall of the regime of former president Hosni Mubarak in February, Israel had on several occasions approved an Egyptian request to allow extra forces into the peninsula.

"Since the latest crisis, we let them send in battalions," he told public radio, that Sinai covers an area which is more than three times the size of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"The matter was requested by them on a temporary basis to ensure that the gas pipelines are not blown up, so that (the Egyptian port city of) El-Arish wouldn't be taken over by the Bedouins, and in order to allow the shared fight against terrorism to continue," he said.

The minister was referring to a major Egyptian operation in the northern Sinai which was launched two weeks ago to clamp down on militants who have staged at least five attacks on a gas pipeline supplying Israel and Jordan since February.

The area is also rife with Bedouin outlaws.

"We have an interest in stability, we have an interest in the problem being resolved on the other side" of the border, Barak said, while stressing the paramount importance of the peace treaty for the two neighbours.

Several days after the operation began, public radio reported that Netanyahu had given Cairo the green light increase its troops in Sinai in order to "restore order" there.

Egypt supplies about 40 percent of Israel's natural gas and the repeated attacks on the pipeline have sparked a spike in domestic prices as the Jewish state struggles with a wave of mass protests against the spiralling cost of living.

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