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Monday, September 24, 2012

Egypt threatens to cut off IDF’s hand if it enters Sinai

A senior member of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Armed Forces warned Israel against considering an incursion into the Sinai Peninsula to contain terrorist activity.

Speaking anonymously to the Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Yom on Monday, the official said that the Egyptian leadership was closely following developments in Sinai and threatened to ”cut off the hand” of any foreign or domestic aggressor. He also praised the ongoing anti-terrorism Egyptian operations in Sinai.

The council member said that Egypt takes seriously Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reported desire to “purge” the Sinai of terrorists, and warned against Israeli attempts to “provoke Egypt.”

Egypt has mobilized large military forces to the Sinai in light of the rapidly deteriorating security situation there. A number of terror attacks have been aimed against Israel, including a shooting on Friday that left one Israeli soldier dead.

The official’s words came shortly after Egyptian MP Mohammed Abd al-Haleem told Al-Arabiya that “it is impossible under any circumstances that Israel would conduct strikes against Egyptians in Sinai.”

Regarding the buildup of Egyptian troops in the peninsula, al-Haleem said, “We have updated Israel regarding the sending of more troops than allowed under the Camp David Accords in order to finish the military missions in Sinai.

“We are updating the Israelis so that they remain calm,” he added. “We will not act against them.”

He explained that Cairo could not wait until the necessary amendments were made to the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, which greatly limits the presence of Egyptian forces in the Peninsula.

Al-Haleem added that the military operation against Islamist terrorists in the area would continue for an unspecified amount of time.

Terrorists from the Sinai Peninsula on Friday launched a cross-border attack against Israeli Defense Forces soldiers who were securing work on the border fence. Netanel Yahalomi, 20, was killed in that attack, and a second soldier was wounded.

Ansar Jerusalem, a shadowy group inspired by al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack, and linked it to the video denigrating the Prophet Muhammad that has sparked protests across the Muslim world.

On Saturday, an Egyptian presidential adviser announced that he will submit a proposal for amending the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty in the coming days.

Mohammed Esmat Seif al-Dawla said the proposal will include major changes to the peace treaty’s fourth article, which governs the establishment of “limited force zones in Egyptian and Israeli territory” along the shared border with the Sinai Peninsula. According to the Camp David Accords, Egypt may station “no more than one division (mechanized or infantry) of Egyptian armed forces” more than 30 miles from the Suez Canal.

Al-Dawla contends that the article limits Egypt’s rights to protect the Sinai Peninsula and must be changed.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman responded to mention of amending the treaty on Sunday, telling Israel Radio that “there is no chance Israel will agree to any kind of change” in the 1979 agreement. “The Egyptians shouldn’t try to delude themselves or delude others and they should not rely on this demand,” he added.

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