Last Updated: Wed Feb 16, 2011 12:51 pm (KSA) 09:51 am (GMT)

Israel's Barak says troops may "enter Lebanon again"

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak (File)
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak (File)

The Israel army may have to enter Lebanon again to ensure Hezbollah remembers the lessons of the 2006 war, Defense Minister Ehud Barak was quoted as saying in an Israeli newspaper on Wednesday, as Israel agreed to a second limited deployment of Egyptian troops to secure the demilitarised north Sinai.

"Even though it's quiet and deterrence exists -- Hezbollah remembers the heavy beating they suffered from us in 2006 -- but it is not forever, and you may be called to enter again," Barak said during a tour of the northern border with the new military Chief of Staff Benny Gantz.

His remarks, which referred to Israel's deadly 34-day war with the powerful Lebanese Shiite group, were reported by the Haaretz newspaper.

"We must be prepared for every test," Barak told troops stationed along the frontier. "The secret is reacting fast in the event that something happens, and within seconds, translating everything you learned in your training."

The 2006 war killed 1,200 people in Lebanon, most of them civilians, and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

Egyptian troops in north Sinai

Israel, meanwhile, has agreed to a second limited deployment of Egyptian troops to secure the demilitarized north Sinai, where suspected sabotage has disrupted gas supply from Egypt, an official said on Wednesday.

The movement of Egyptian soldiers into the zone, a step Israel has described as temporary, has fuelled debate among Israelis over whether the fall of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak would affect a peace treaty signed in 1979.

Under that pact, only a limited number of Egyptian police are permitted to patrol the border area. It also restricts the nature and size of Israeli forces on the other side of the frontier.

An Israeli official said Egyptian reinforcements "in the hundreds" had been brought in to help secure the zone, which saw rioting against Mubarak government as well as a suspicious fire at a gas pipeline facility on Feb. 5.

Egyptian gas supplies to East Mediterranean Gas Co and its Israeli clients were expected to resume later this month, Ampal-American Israel Corp, a holding company with a 12.5 percent interest in EMG, said on Wednesday.

Israel's Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported that 700 Egyptian soldiers had been deployed in the demilitarized zone in recent days, beefing up some 800 troops there since Jan. 30.

After the initial deployment, Barak said their movement into the area with Israel's blessing represented "a temporary situation, until the situation in Egypt has been stabilized."

The Israeli official who spoke to Reuters on Wednesday said the remarks by Barak, who has been in contact with the head of Egypt's Higher Military Council, reflected government policy toward the second Egyptian deployment as well.

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