Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu approved an Egyptian request to increase its number of troops in the Sinai Peninsula in order to “restore order” in the region, public radio said on Monday.
The number of Egyptian forces in the peninsula are limited by the terms of the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty, but Netanyahu approved the move following a request from Cairo, the radio said.
A senior Israeli official refused to confirm the report, but indicated such a move would be welcome given a spate of attacks in the area, notably against a pipeline transporting natural gas from Egypt to Israel and Jordan.
“In recent months we have seen increased activity by extremist elements in the Sinai Peninsula. It is not in the interest of any country in the region to see the area become a centre for international terrorism,” the official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
More than 1,000 soldiers and policemen began deploying in the northern Sinai on Saturday, entering the town of Rafah which straddles the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, Egyptian security officials said at the weekend.
The aim of the operation is to clamp down on militants who have staged four attacks on the gas pipeline over the past six months since the start of a massive uprising which in February led to the fall of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
Egypt supplies about 40 percent of Israel’s natural gas, which is used to produce electricity.
Israel’s Haaretz newspaper on Monday reported that senior defense official Amos Gilad had on Sunday travelled to Cairo for talks about the security operation in Sinai as well as the case of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was captured by Gaza militants in 2006 who is still being held.