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Wednesday, February 9, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Israel refuses Egypt's request to send more troops to the Sinai

TEL AVIV — Israel has rejected an Egyptian request for the deployment of additional troops in the Sinai Peninsula, meant to be demilitarized under their more than 30-year treaty.


Officials said the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused an Egyptian request to deploy an additional several hundred Egyptian military troops in Sinai. They said this marked the second Egyptian request for troops in Sinai in as many weeks.

"The first request we agreed to because we felt this was urgent," an official said. "The second request we felt was an attempt to change the status quo."

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Officials said Egypt has cited increasing attacks by Bedouins and Palestinian fighters in eastern and central Sinai. They said Cairo has assessed that Al Qaida-aligned militias in the Gaza Strip were exploiting the current security vacuum to target strategic facilities in Sinai, including the natural gas terminal that supplies Israel and Jordan.

In January, Israel agreed to the deployment of two Egyptian Army battalions in Sinai. Officials said the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak explained the request by saying that the troops would protect Western tourists in the southern Sinai port of Sharm el-Sheikh, Middle East Newsline reported.

Under the 1979 peace treaty, Egypt agreed to demilitarize most of the Sinai. Over the last decade, officials said, Egypt has relayed numerous requests to deploy military and security forces in central and eastern Sinai.

"We do not want it to seem as if the peace treaty is meaningless, particularly at a time when there could be a regime change in Egypt, which could renounce the treaty altogether," a senior military source told the Jerusalem Post.

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