The Canadian government has renewed Operation CALUMET, the Canadian military’s contribution to the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) in the Sinai Peninsula and will be deploying 55 Canadian Armed Forces personnel.
“Canada’s unwavering contribution to the Multinational Force and Observers demonstrates its commitment to lasting peace and security in the Middle East,” said Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The 1,600-strong peacekeeping force has been charged with maintaining a decades-old buffer zone between Israel and Egypt since 1981 under the direction of the MFO, which supervises the implementation of the security provisions of the Egyptian-Israel Peace Treaty signed in 1979.
The MFO is comprised of personnel from twelve nations: Australia, Canada, Colombia, the Czech Republic, France, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, the Republic of the Fiji Islands, the United Kingdom, the United States and Uruguay. MFO Sinai is the largest element of the force and is a joint organization with ground, air and naval elements, as well as civilian components.
Ottawa has contributed to the MFO based in Egypt’s El Gorah, located just 10 kilometers south of the Israeli border, since 1985. Under the renewed Operation CALUMET, the Canadian delegation will include senior advisers, headquarters staff and experts in fields such as remote observation, logistics, engineering, policing and training.
“These personnel serve in senior and highly-specialized roles to support and enhance key MFO capabilities,” Canada’s Defense Ministry said in a statement, adding that under the renewal, the Canadian contribution will last until March 31, 2022.
“The renewal of Operation CALUMET demonstrates Canada’s long-standing support to peace-support operations in the Middle East. I am proud of the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces who are contributing to regional security and stability while they participate in one of Canada’s longest ongoing international commitments,” said Canada’s Minister of Defense Harjit S. Sajjan.
According to the ministry, approximately 30 Canadian military police officers supported the MFO Military Police Unit from March 2015 to March 2019. They concluded their four-year mandate of leading the multinational unit (Canada, Colombia, Fiji, New Zealand, and the United States) in its conduct of policing duties in the North and South camps of the MFO on March 23.
An Islamist insurgency in the desolate, thinly populated Sinai Peninsula has increased in violence and pace since the Egyptian military toppled President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013.
Egyptian president Abdel Fateh al-Sisi has waged extensive military operations against Islamic State militants in Sinai, who despite the small size of the peninsula group, is considered by many to be one of the most effective ISIS franchises outside of Syria and Iraq, having carried out numerous deadly attacks on Egyptian security forces.
Israel has a 240-kilometer border with the restive Sinai peninsula, and Cairo and Jerusalem are reported to have been closely cooperating in the fight against militants since Sisi rose to power.
According to foreign reports, Israel has operated beyond its borders to thwart the smuggling of rockets into the blockaded Gaza Strip, reportedly working with Egyptian forces in the Sinai peninsula.
In January, CBS News aired an interview with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in which he said that military cooperation between Egypt and Israel has reached “unprecedented levels” in the Sinai Peninsula.
In Israel, the military censor has restricted reports of the cooperation and, following the interview with CBS’s Scott Pelley, the channel was apparently contacted by the Egyptian ambassador and was told the interview could not be aired.