Egypt deploys U.S. tanks, missiles in demilitarized Sinai, near Israel

Special to WorldTribune.com

WASHINGTON — Egypt, despite a longstanding agreement to demilitarize
much of the Sinai Peninsula, has deployed U.S.-origin missiles and combat
platforms near the border with Israel.

Western defense sources said the Egyptian Army has deployed in Sinai a
range of assets supplied by the United States. They cited main battle tanks
and surface-to-air missiles, particularly in the area between Sinai town of
El Arish and the border with Israel and the Gaza Strip.

the Egyptian Army has deployed U.S.-origin M-60A3 tanks in eastern Sinai.

“Right now, all of the [Egyptian] heavy weapons have been deployed along the Israeli border,” a defense source said.

The U.S.-origin MBTs were identified as the M-60A3, a light platform
exported to Egypt in the 1980s. The sources said the Egyptian Army has deployed between 20 and 30 M-60A3s in eastern Sinai.

The Army also deployed the U.S.-origin Avenger air defense system near the Israeli border. The Avenger, produced by Boeing, contains the Stinger surface-to-air missile and was supplied to Egypt over the last five years.

The sources said Egypt has also deployed an armored personnel carrier supplied by Turkey. They identified the Dutch platform as the YPR-765, which contains 30 mm automatic gun turrets. The Egyptian Army was said to have acquired some 430 such APCs from the Netherlands.

Israel has demanded that Egypt withdraw the American MBTs and missiles
from eastern Sinai. Some officials warned that the weapons could be used to
stop Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip.

The United States has acknowledged discussions with Cairo and Jerusalem
over the Egyptian military deployment in Sinai. On Aug. 23, Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton telephoned her Egyptian counterpart to review Israeli
complaints over violations of the demilitarization of the peninsula.

“This call was in keeping with a series of contacts that we’ve had in
recent days with both Egyptians and Israelis,” State Department spokeswoman
Victoria Nuland said, “encouraging both sides to keep the lines of
communication open between them, to talk directly about any issues of
concern, and the importance of working through the security challenges in
the Sinai in a way that, first and foremost, strengthens Egypt’s security,
but also has a positive impact on the security of neighbors and the region
as a whole.”

At the same time, the United States has advanced its latest F-16 program
in Egypt. The Defense Department awarded an $8.7 million contract to United
Technologies for support of F100-PW-229 engines for Egypt’s order of 20 F-16
Block 52 multi-role fighters. In August, the Egyptian Air Force flew at
least two F-16s near the Israeli border.

“Work is to be completed by Dec. 31, 2013,” the Pentagon said on Aug.
23.

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