Egypt to boost border guard patrol on Sinai frontier with Gaza

In latest sign of their close security co-ordination, Israel gives Egypt the nod to reinforce security on border with Gaza

A Palestinian security officer stands guard at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip. AFP
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Egypt and Israel have agreed to increase the number and capabilities of border guards on the frontier between Egypt and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, the Egyptian military spokesman said.

In a brief statement posted on his Facebook page, the spokesman said the increase was part of an amendment of the joint security agreement between the Middle Eastern neighbours.

The amendment applies to the town of Rafah, the main crossing point between Egypt and Gaza. The statement suggested that Egypt alone will increase the number of border guards.

“The joint military committee has succeeded through a co-ordination meeting with the Israeli side to amend the security agreement to increase the number of border guards and their capabilities on the border area at Rafah,” the spokesman said. “This comes in the context of an international agreement; and reinforces the foundations of security to deal with changes and variables.”

The statement did not give the size of the increase in Egyptian border guards to be posted at Rafah or say when or where the Israeli and Egyptian officials met. However, The Jerusalem Post reported that the two sides met on Sunday in the Egyptian Red Sea resort city of Sharm El Sheikh in southern Sinai.

It quoted a statement by the Israeli Army's media office as saying the two sides agreed to amend the joint security agreement “in favour of increasing the security grip of the Egyptian army in this area”.

The agreement is the latest evidence of the close security co-ordination between the former foes.

Egypt in 1979 became the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel, ending decades of hostilities in which the countries fought three full-blown wars in 1948, 1967 and 1973. Relations have since been described as a “cold peace” because of the scarcity of contact between the two peoples.

Security co-ordination between the two has been close in the fight against militants, human and drug trafficking and the latest agreement demonstrates a high level of co-operation.

The Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty restricts the number of troops and arms Egypt can send to the Sinai Peninsula, which Israel captured in 1967 but handed back to Egypt after they made peace.

However, Israel has allowed Egypt in recent years to station tanks, assault helicopters and troops in northern Sinai to beef up its campaign against extremists. It also allows Egyptian fighter-jets to operate in the area, as well as warships in the Mediterranean.

Egypt has a mixed view of Gaza, which it has regarded as a potential source of security concerns since the militant Hamas group seized power in 2007, expelling members of the moderate, West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.

Moreover, militants from Gaza are widely suspected to have joined their Egyptian peers in northern Sinai, forcing Egypt to step up security on the border and destroy an elaborate network of tunnels used by Palestinians in Gaza to smuggle a wide range of goods, including arms.

Egypt, on the other hand, has traditionally negotiated ceasefires between Israel and Hamas. The last time it did so was in May when it brokered a ceasefire that ended an 11-day war.

Updated: November 08, 2021, 5:41 PM