Egyptian envoy to PA: Israel plotting to retake Sinai

Israeli officials defend peace treat, say Sinai is sovereign Egyptian territory; Othman tells Ma'an Sinai is under control.

Sinai 311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Sinai 311
(photo credit: Reuters)
Egyptian Ambassador to the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Othman believes Israel is plotting to retake control of the Sinai peninsula, he said in an interview with Palestinian news agency Ma'an published on Friday.
Othman stated that Israel has increased its rhetoric about lawlessness in Sinai and the subsequent terror threat to Israel, setting up a pretext to take control of the area.
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The Egyptian official said that Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, are attempting to give the impression to the outside world that Egypt's post-revolutionary government is incapable of controlling its border with Israel.
Othman defended Egypt against claims that Sinai was not sufficiently under the control of the government. He stated that their was a campaign underway to improve security in the region, particularly in the northern Sinai on the border with Gaza. He added that the vast size of Sinai and its difficult terrain should be taken into consideration when  judging the efficacy of Egypt's control of the area.
The envoy pointed out that the upheaval in the region, particularly in Libya, has affected Sinai as well. The flow of weapons into Sinai from Libya is largely believed to have increased since the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi began.
Israeli officials responded to Othman's claims, saying that the peace treaty with Egypt - which clearly state that the Sinai is sovereign Egyptian territory - is a strategic asset for the two countries, Israel Radio reported.
The pipeline in Sinai that carries gas to Israel and Jordan has been attacked by assailants six times since the fall of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in February. The last such attack occurred on Tuesday.
A multi-staged terror attack emanating from the peninsula brought about the deaths of eight Israelis in August. Following Israeli retaliatory strikes for the attack on Gaza terror targets, Othman said that Israeli operations in Gaza were complicating Cairo’s efforts to stabilize Sinai.
The Egyptian armed forces launched a security operation in Sinai in August to root out hundreds of suspected militants believed to be behind some of the attacks on the pipeline and police compounds in the peninsula.
The IDF has been on high alert along the Egyptian border in the aftermath of the attacks and has significantly beefed up forces and surveillance equipment there.
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 the 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.
An Israeli official said in August 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.
Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.