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Israel asks Egypt to remove tanks

Aug. 21, 2012 at 8:11 AM

JERUSALEM, Aug. 21 (UPI) -- Israel has asked Egypt to remove its tanks from the Sinai Peninsula, saying the deployment violates the peace agreement between the countries, Maariv reported.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called on Egypt to immediately remove its tanks from northern Sinai, in a harsh message conveyed from Jerusalem to the White House and sent to Cairo, the Hebrew language daily said Tuesday.

"Israel is extremely concerned over the Egyptian tanks in northern Sinai, which is a blatant violation of the peace treaty," an Israeli security source told the paper.

Israel also asked that Egypt refrain from deploying additional troops without coordinating the move, saying failure to do so violates the peace agreement between the two countries, the paper said. Egypt has also deployed anti-aircraft missiles in the Sinai, even though the Bedouin there have no aircraft.

A decision was made to involve the U.S. administration after the security coordination between Egypt and Israel that was maintained closely over the years by both sides, deteriorated lately, the paper said.

Israel is reportedly concerned that Egypt won't act to restore security control over the Sinai and efforts to clamp down on militant elements there will be a symbolic gesture only. Another fear is Egypt will leave armored units in the Sinai and build up its military presence to bring about a de facto change to the peace agreements, the newspaper said.

Egypt's newly appointed Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said he is willing to invest in developing the Sinai with funds from the Egyptian army budget, saying its development is the only solution to the situation "not arms," al-Masry al-Youm said. He toured the area Monday with Egyptian air force commander Reda Hafez and met with tribal leaders in Rafah, the Egyptian daily said.

"We won't allow armed men in Sinai to threaten the security of the nation. In the next days we will announce the names of those implicated in the killing of Egyptian soldiers on the border, once the military operation is over," the paper quoted Sisi saying.

The 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt called for an Israel withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula it captured in the 1967 Six Day War and turning the area into a demilitarized zone.

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