Following the return of the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in the 1979 Camp David Peace Accords, Egypt was forbidden from deploying forces in the region closest to the Israeli border. The Times of Israel reports that recently, Israel has been allowing the Egyptian army to expand its presence there in an effort to curb the activities of Hamas in Gaza.
An Israeli official spoke to the news site on condition of anonymity, as official relations between Israel and Egypt are strained. “Cooperation is growing tighter on the intelligence and operational level — in fact, on all military levels,” he said. “Both countries want to crush Hamas, but we need to be smart about it.”
Israel is permitting Egyptian Apache helicopters, already active in the area, to circle the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip to intimidate the ruling party.
The Reuters news agency reported last week that Egypt was stepping up its efforts to undermine Hamas, which it sees as a threat to its national security. According to the report, four high-level Egyptian officials identified Hamas as Cairo’s next priority after subduing the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas is an offshoot of that organization. The officials detailed some of the actions being taken against Hamas, including working with rival Fatah party and supporting popular anti-Hamas activity in the Gaza Strip. In early January, Cairo hosted a conference for a new anti-Hamas youth movement based in Gaza, called Tamarud, or “rebel”.
Egypt underwent its own turmoil last year when the democratically-elected president Mohammed Morsi was ousted by the military. Morsi is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and supported Hamas through his actions during his presidency. He was deposed when millions in Egypt took to the streets last July, demanding that he step down. He is now to be tried on a number of charges, ranging from mocking the judiciary to incitement to kill protesters. Since the military took over, the frosty, albeit peaceful, relationship between Israel and Egypt has been quietly improving.
“Since July, there’s more willingness to speak to us. The tone has changed,” the Israeli official said.
The 1979 Peace Accords included a military appendix, prohibiting Egypt from sending forces into the area of the Sinai Peninsula closest to Israel. However, in 2005, then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon authorized the deployment of 750 Egyptian troops to patrol the border with Gaza, following Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Today, amendments made to the appendix and renewed every month allow both ground and air forces from Egypt to fight Islamist forces in the northeastern Sinai region. “In practice, the military appendix is nonexistent,” the official said. Currently, ten Egyptian brigades are active in Sinai.