Islamic State-affiliated Sinai Province fighters in the Sinai Peninsula.
(photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/ARAB MEDIA)
A senior Israeli defense official rejected as “untrue” on Thursday a report this week that the Obama administration is considering removing its peace keeping forces from Egypt’s Sinai, because of the growing violence there.
“The US is committed to this peace agreement by law and also in a deep way,” Amos Gilad, the head of the Defense Ministry’s political-security branch, said in an interview on Army Radio.
He said that nobody has been hurt serving in the Sinai peace force and it has been accepted by Israel, Egypt, and the US. Gilad added that it was recently agreed to increase the force’s budget.
“Everybody agrees with its importance,” he said.
Officials told AP earlier this week that the Obama administration was fearful that lightly equipped peacekeepers could become targets of Islamic State and it was considering increasing the force’s protection or withdrawing it altogether.
US forces have been part of the peacekeeping force since the1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. One official said the US does not currently perceive an imminent threat to the peacekeepers, which are mandated by the treaty, said the report.
Asked about the motivation behind the report, Gilad responded that it is all a matter of making headlines.
The peacekeeping force is in the peace treaty so that it can monitor it, he said.
Last week, a New York Times
editorial opined that it was time to reassess the need for the Sinai peacekeeping force.
“More than three decades after the establishment of the Multinational Force and Observers, which includes two American Army battalions, fighting is raging in the vast, largely desolate peninsula, with groups of Islamist extremists clashing with Egyptian security forces,” it said.
“The violence, which has endangered and significantly restricted the mobility of the peacekeepers, is good reason to consider pulling them out of Sinai,” said the Times.
“An attack on the multinational force of more than 1,600 troops could open a new front in the American-led war against the Islamic State,” it warned.