The Egyptian government announced over the weekend that, in cooperation with Israel, it will start deploying troops in the northern Sinai Peninsula to combat terrorists operating in the region. Head of Egypt’s forces in Sinai, Gen. Salah al-Masri said the Egyptian interior ministry had reinforced its presence there with 150 police officers, members of special forces and other units, along with dozens of armoured cars. The troops are intended to secure the main roads, maintain control of the area close to the Israeli border, and defend the natural gas pipeline to Israel and Jordan, which has been repeatedly sabotaged over the past year.
Despite the Egyptian reinforcement, the natural gas pipe from Egypt to Israel and Jordan was attacked again yesterday for the 14th time since the overthrow of Mubarak. Last week, Katyusha rockets were fired from the Sinai into the southern Israeli city of Eilat.
The security situation in Sinai has significantly deteriorated since the Mubarak regime collapsed. Armed groups affiliated with Palestinian factions mostly operating in Gaza, have taken advantage of the anarchy in Sinai to use the areas as a base of operations, and to link up with Egyptian Jihadi fighters. In August 2011 a combined terror attack on the Israeli-Egypt border claimed the lives of eight Israelis. On a number of occasions in the last year, Israel has allowed Egypt to increase its military deployment in the Sinai to try and reassert control, despite the fact that the Israel-Egypt peace treaty strictly limits the numbers of Egyptian forces in the area.
In related news, Egypt’s former intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, announced he will be running in the upcoming presidential elections. Suleiman served as the head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Department for 18 years and maintained close working relations with Israeli leaders. In an interview to Egyptian media Suleiman said he will seek to restore stability to Egypt and criticised the Muslim Brotherhood for “monopolising power.”