Israel, Egypt to extend army presence alongside Egypt’s Rafah border

Egypt has introduced it is going to ramp up army troop deployment near the Rafah border with the Gaza Strip in a bid “to strengthen national security.”  

According to a assertion printed Nov. 8 by Egyptian armed forces spokesperson Gharib Abdel Hafez on his official Facebook web page, “A joint military committee succeeded (during a coordination meeting with the Israeli side) in amending the security agreement to increase the number and capabilities of border guards near the Rafah crossing.”  

The safety settlement cited by Abdel Hafez is an annex to the 1979 Camp David Peace Accords signed by late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and then-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin permitting Egypt to keep up a civilian police pressure solely within the jap strip of the Sinai Peninsula. That, nevertheless, has modified in recent times with the warming of ties between Cairo and Jerusalem and Egypt’s ongoing army marketing campaign towards Islamist jihadi teams waging an insurgency within the northern Sinai Peninsula.

Not solely has Israel turned a blind eye to the annex of the Camp David Accords banning the presence of great Egyptian forces within the space, the Jewish state has additionally cooperated carefully with Egyptian safety forces of their struggle on terrorism within the restive Sinai Peninsula, together with by “carrying out a covert air campaign, conducting more than 100 airstrikes (against jihadi targets) inside Egypt,” in line with a New York Times report printed Feb. 3, 2018.   

While President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi admitted in a January 2019 CBS interview that safety cooperation with Israel “is tighter than it has ever been,” the extent of that cooperation has not been made public partly due to a information blackout on safety developments within the northern Sinai Peninsula. The Egyptian authorities are additionally conscious that hotter ties with Israel might provoke public discontent. While many Egyptians aren’t averse to commerce with Israel, the Egyptian public is cautious of deepening ties with the Jewish state till a simply and sturdy peace with the Palestinians is achieved. 

The Nov. 7 deal struck between senior Egyptian and Israeli army officers throughout their assembly within the Red Sea resort metropolis of Sharm el-Sheikh has introduced the joint collaboration between the 2 allies to mild. Israel has now formally given the Egyptian army larger management over the border space and larger leeway to function towards the Islamic State (IS)-affiliated militant teams within the northern Sinai Peninsula, enhancing its personal safety within the course of. Sinai Province (Wilayat Sinai), IS’s Egypt affiliate, has previously fired rockets from the Sinai Peninsula into Israel, claiming accountability for the assaults within the Eilat area. In one such assault carried out in July 2015, the group mentioned it had acted in retaliation for “Israeli support for the Egyptian army.”  

Senior army strategist Samir Farag welcomed the latest settlement between Egypt and Israel, saying it has made members of the Egyptian armed forces “very happy.” He defined that underneath the Camp David Accords, the Sinai Peninsula was divided into three zones: A, B and C.   

“The Camp David Treaty regulated the presence of forces in the Sinai, allowing only civilian police forces to be deployed to zone C — the area nearest to the shared border with Israel,” he informed Al-Monitor.

He continued, “In recent years, we (the Egyptian armed forces) have been fighting against terrorists in Rafah, El Arish, Sheikh Zuweid and Jabal El-Halal, all of which are located in zone C; we had to seek Israel’s permission before dispatching military forces and armaments to cleanse those areas of terrorist elements.” 

“The latest settlement has made it doable for Egypt to have an elevated army presence in zone C alongside the border with Israel,” Farag mentioned. The settlement —  which was signed on the Israeli aspect by head of the Operations Directorate Maj. Gen. Oded Basiuk, head of the International Cooperation Division Brig. Gen. Effie Defrin, and head of the Strategic Planning and Cooperation Directorate Maj. Gen. Tal Kelman — had first to be permitted by Israel’s State Security Cabinet as that is “a political rather than a military decision,” he added.

Describing the choice as “a win-win,” Farag argued that “Israel has given the green light for the increased military presence along its southern border for the sake of rooting out the extremist threat in the Sinai Peninsula.” 

“Israel is already targeted by Hamas and Hezbollah; it does not need to be fighting on another front. The agreement is mutually beneficial for both Egypt and Israel,” he mentioned.

An Israel Defense Forces spokesperson informed Al-Monitor, “The decision to amend the security agreement was made for the benefit of the two countries (Egypt and Israel); it was based on a common understanding of the security needs and challenges both in the Rafah area and in the context of combatting terrorism.”

Maj. Gen. Samir Farag famous that the September talks between Sisi and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett held in Sharm el-Sheikh had paved the best way for the latest settlement between Egypt and Israel as safety challenges had featured within the discussions.

Hassan Nafaa, professor of political science at Cairo University, informed Al-Monitor that each the most recent settlement and Bennett’s latest go to, the primary by an Israeli premier to Egypt in additional than a decade, are clear indicators of the warming relations between Egypt and its neighbor to the northeast. “It is clear that our relations have now moved from the cold peace that was prevalent in the days of Hosni Mubarak to more cordial relations with Israel under President Sisi,” he mentioned. 

Nafaa famous, nevertheless, that this isn’t the primary time that Israel has given the inexperienced mild to the Egyptian armed forces to deploy army troops and border guards to the Rafah border space. But this time the settlement is official and has been extensively publicized, together with within the native press.

“Israel is looking out for its own security, but it is also trying to win over Egypt as it recognizes the latter’s pivotal role in mediating a cease-fire with Hamas when the need arises, in negotiating prisoner swaps with Hamas and in the reconstruction of Gaza,” Nafaa mentioned.

In May, Egypt succeeded in brokering a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas after 11 days of incessant violence — the worst between the 2 events to the battle since 2014. Meanwhile, Egypt’s Intelligence Chief Abbas Kamel is scheduled to go to Jerusalem in late November — his second go to for the reason that new Israeli authorities was sworn in over the summer time — to dealer a long-term cease-fire in Gaza that features a prisoner swap between Israel and Hamas.

Nafaa famous that Egypt’s relations with Hamas have additionally “improved significantly” for the reason that rulers of the Gaza Strip have been cooperating with Egypt within the struggle towards terrorism within the northern Sinai Peninsula.

The improved ties with each Hamas and Israel can solely enhance Egypt’s position as mediator between the 2 conflicting events. It additionally serves to reinforce Egypt’s safety. The important discount in terrorist assaults within the Sinai Peninsula and elsewhere within the nation of late testifies to the truth that Egypt additionally wants the assist of each Hamas and Israel to win the struggle on terror.