Last Updated: Sat Aug 18, 2012 15:54 pm (KSA) 12:54 pm (GMT)

Israel asks Egypt to withdraw heavy weapons from Sinai: report

Relatives cry on the coffin of an Egyptian soldier killed by unknown gunmen during an attack at a checkpoint along the Sinai border. (Reuters)
Relatives cry on the coffin of an Egyptian soldier killed by unknown gunmen during an attack at a checkpoint along the Sinai border. (Reuters)

Israel has requested Egypt to pull its heavy weaponry away from the Sinai Peninsula after the end of operations against militants there, Israeli military radio has reported.

High-ranking Israeli officials told the radio station Friday that Cairo and Tel Aviv continued to communicate about security and political issues and Israel was following up on “concerns” over what is happening in the Sinai area.

The officials, whose names were not disclosed, said meetings taking place between officials from Egypt’s foreign ministry and the Israeli Ambassador in Cairo.

Haaretz newspaper reported that some of the Egyptian forces in Sinai had arrived with the approval of Israel, but some were deployed without Israeli's prior knowledge.

The Israeli paper said the Camp David Accord stipulated Egypt, the first Arab country to recognize Israel, would not to allow heavy weapons, including armored vehicles, to some regions in Sinai, including al-Arish. However, recently, tens of armored vehicles have arrived in Arish.

Egypt and Israel ended 30 years of conflict after signing the accord in 1979.

On August 5, still-unidentified attackers burst through a border crossing into Israel after killing 16 Egyptian guards in adjacent Sinai.

The Egyptian military has since massed troops in the Sinai and pledged to restore order to the remote and often inaccessible area, since the cross-border raid in which the attackers used an Egyptian armored vehicle to take them across the frontier before they were halted by Israeli helicopter and tank fire.

Militants wound police in Sinai

Meanwhile, militants wounded three Egyptian policemen in Sinai on Saturday in an ambush of their vehicle with a rocket propelled grenade, a security official said.

The militants attacked the policemen near the north Sinai town of Sheikh Zuwayid, roughly 15 kilometers west of the Gaza border, as the policemen were returning from an operation, the official said.

He said soldiers and policemen had earlier arrested two Islamist militants near the divided town of Rafah on the Egypt-Gaza border.

On Thursday, an Israeli military source speaking on condition of anonymity warned that if Egypt fails to restore order in the Sinai it could come to resemble the Afghan mountain hideouts which sheltered the Taliban and their al-Qaeda allies.

“Thousands” of militants were holed up in the remote region where local Bedouin help them, he said. “There are nests of terrorists there, big nests.”

He said local Bedouins “don’t have the ideology to blow themselves up.”
“They don’t care if they kill Egyptians or Jews, what they care about is how much money goes into their Swiss bank account.”

“Terrorists,” according to him, “pay a lot of money, they don’t know the territory, they don’t know how to reach a certain spot without guides. The same people who are smuggling drugs are the same guides who get the terrorists through, but instead of getting 100,000 dollars (for an assignment) they get half a million dollars.”

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