Israel Radio - Voice of Israel – is reporting that Egypt has moved anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles into the Sinai Peninsula, which if true would be a violation of the 1979 Camp David peace accords it signed with Israel which limits the forces Egypt is allowed to position in the Sinai.
Just last week, Israeli officials said they were concerned by the movement of tanks and armored vehicles into the Sinai – ostensibly to aid Egyptian forces in their battle with the growing jihadi terrorist threat growing in the area bordering Israel. But the addition of more sophisticated weaponry and the fact that terrorists in the Sinai are not armed with aircraft or tanks is raising alarm bells in Israel. Arab Affairs Correspondent Eran Zinger reports:
It must be said that the situation is very fluid. This is something that is happening in these recent days, that the Egyptian army is showing determination it did not show in the past to battle terror elements. […]
I’m talking about the introduction of advanced weapons by elements trying to change the situation. So if the Egyptian Army is trying now to change the situation in the Sinai with weapons it’s not supposed to put there, then this should concern Israel. And if the rebels in Syria start to receive from the Americans Stinger missiles to hit Syrian Air Force planes, then this should also concern us.
Zinger says Israel’s eyes should be open to all the threats near and far, not just to Iran.” Israel National News is interpreting the move as threatening to Israel and reminiscent of a grave past experience:
If the report is true, the move is an overtly hostile one toward Israel and can only mean that Egypt is preparing for hostilities with the Jewish state. Ostensibly, Egyptian forces moved into Sinai only in order to crush terrorist activity there. However, the terrorists possess no aircraft. Therefore anti-aircraft missiles can only be intended against Israel's air force.
In the prelude to the Yom Kippur War of 1973, Egypt moved anti-aircraft missiles close to the Suez Canal, despite a commitment not to do so. Israel chose to ignore the move, and the result was catastrophic, when the missiles shot down numerous IAF jets after war broke out.
On Tuesday, Ma’ariv reported that Netanyahu’s office sent a stern message to Egypt -- via the White House -- demanding that Egypt move its tanks out of the Sinai and immediately stop deploying military assets in the peninsula without coordination with Israel. A senior Israeli official tells the paper, “This is a severe violation of the peace treaty between the states.”
Reuters quotes Egyptian security sources who say “Egypt is preparing to use aircraft and tanks in Sinai for the first time since the 1973 war with Israel in its offensive against militants in the border area.” It also plans to use mobile rocket-launchers according to the report.
Even before the anti-aircraft missiles report, Ha’aretz called the Sinai deployment “the most extensive activity by the army in Sinai since the Yom Kippur War 39 years ago.” It reported over the weekend that Egypt’s “unilateral” decision to move heavy weaponry into the Sinai “should set off warning bells in Jerusalem.”
Israel had prior knowledge about, and consented to, the use of some of the military reinforcements that were sent into the peninsula as well as the warplanes that were employed. But Egypt took action above and beyond what both sides agreed the Egyptian military needed to do in order to operate throughout Sinai. It turns out that additional forces were sent in, almost without anyone noticing, and without Jerusalem's agreement.
There is an American angle here as well. The U.S. provides $1.3 billion per year in military aid to Egypt, which was an incentive for then President Anwar Sadat to make peace with Israel more than 30 years ago. Among the items on Egypt’s shopping list are advanced weapons including the F-16C/D fighter aircraft. With the takeover of the Muslim Brotherhood and the doubts about its long-term commitment to the peace treaty with Israel, the question remains if this aid should be reconsidered.