Egypt launches massive operation to control Sinai

Defense officials say they were aware of, welcome operation known as Operation Eagle which is set to stop al-Qaida, Bedouin terrorists.

Sinai Bedouin guns pipeline_311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Sinai Bedouin guns pipeline_311
(photo credit: Reuters)
Egypt launched a massive military operation on Sunday to stop al-Qaida and Beduin terrorists and to restore order to the Sinai Peninsula, which fell into anarchy following the revolution in the country earlier this year.
Israeli defense officials said they were aware of the operation – known as Operation Eagle – and that head of the Defense Ministry’s diplomatic-security Bureau Amos Gilad visited Cairo earlier this month to discuss a wide range of issues with the interim Egyptian government, including the operation in Sinai.
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In February, Israel gave the Egyptian government approval to deploy military forces in the Sinai Peninsula to crack down on Beduin violence and to protect a pipeline that supplies natural gas to Israel. The deployment was made under the condition that the troops would withdraw the moment they are asked to by Israel.
Under the 1979 peace treaty, Israel returned Sinai to Egypt. In return, Egypt agreed to leave the area, which borders southern Israel, demilitarized.
The operation launched on Sunday includes about 1,000 soldiers and a few hundred armored personnel carriers that flooded into Sinai over the weekend and took up positions near El-Arish and Rafah. Israeli officials said they welcomed the operation, which they hoped would also lead to a crackdown on weapons smuggling into the Gaza Strip, which has significantly increased since Hosni Mubarak’s regime fell in February.
Since the revolution, the amount of weapons smuggled into Gaza – including advanced rockets and shoulder- launched missiles – has dramatically increased. Al-Qaida and global jihad elements have also strengthened their presence in Sinai.
The Egyptian security forces are also expected to try and apprehend alleged Beduin gangs that are behind a series of attacks on the gas pipeline. The pipeline has been attacked five times in the past six months.
An Israeli official said that there is a lot of concern about the lawlessness in Sinai and the trouble Egypt has had in maintaining order.
“Lack of law and order in Sinai can be dangerous for the region. It can allow extremists to be active in Sinai. We do not want to see Sinai become a launching pad for terrorism,” he said.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.