'Egypt mulling buffer zone on Gaza border'

Egyptian military officials finalizing plan for combating smuggling from Sinai; last protesters dispersed from Israeli Embassy in Cairo.

An Egyptian soldier on the Israeli border in Sinai 311 (R) (photo credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)
An Egyptian soldier on the Israeli border in Sinai 311 (R)
(photo credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)
Egypt is considering establishing a 5km.-deep buffer zone along its border with the Gaza Strip, the Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper reported Sunday, quoting high-level Egyptian security sources.
Egyptian military officials are finalizing a plan to combat smuggling from the Sinai Peninsula into the strip, the report said, adding that heavy excavation equipment had already been moved into the border town of Rafah. The equipment is capable of destroying tunnels up to 20 meters below surface level.
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Egyptian official: Israel agrees to Sinai troop increase
Israel Radio reported this week that Egypt’s army is planning to destroy all tunnels within 14 km. of the border.
Another high-level army source told the Egyptian daily that Cairo is studying the possibility of modifying the peace treaty with Israel regarding the number of Egyptian troops allowed in Sinai. An Israeli source, however, told the AFP news agency that Egypt has submitted no such request.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at Sunday’s cabinet meeting that Israel would consider a request to modify troop levels, but that he sees no reason for the peace treaty to be substantially modified otherwise.
“If we are going to alter the peace treaty with Egypt – and I don’t think that is something we must rush into – it must be approved by the cabinet,” he said earlier Sunday at a meeting with Likud ministers.
“We must take care of security – in particular problems with terror – and we must invest more resources in overcoming obstacles,” Netanyahu said. “We are in continued contacts with the Egyptian government and trying to navigate these contacts intelligently.”
On Saturday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel would not likely approve additional Egyptian troops in eastern Sinai, despite reports in The Economist that he had said it is in Israel’s interest to do so to help bring order to the restive area.