Middle East Monitor / March 6, 2020
5 March 2020 “Israel and Egypt are increasing security coordination in Sinai,” said Yoni Ben Menachem, former Israeli officer in the Military Intelligence Service, Aman.
The Israeli expert in Arab affairs explained that “(Israel) and Egypt expressed their mutual concern over the expected evacuation of the US forces in Sinai, working with the international forces on the peninsula because they fear that this step will be a prelude to other countries that might evacuate their forces operating there, which may reinforce the presence of armed organisations in Sinai.”
Ben Menachem added, in his article published on NewsOne, that “the US Defence Department (the Pentagon) announced to Congress the possibility of cancelling or reducing its military participation in the international forces operating in Sinai, after 38 years of working with (Israel) and Egypt.
(Israel) has been informed of this development. “He pointed out that “US officials informed their Israeli counterparts that the approach is consistent with President Donald Trump’s policy to reduce his country’s military interventions worldwide on the one hand, and curb the US expenditures, on the other.
The United States maintains a military force of 450 soldiers in Sinai, which used to include 700 soldiers in the beginning, and its task is to supervise the implementation of the military and security annexes of the 1979 peace agreement.”
Ben Menachem indicated that “the mission of the US forces in Sinai is focused on the work of the Egyptian forces along the borders with the Gaza Strip, as well as in the short strip on the Israeli side.
The US Defence Secretary Mark Esper told a military committee in the House of Representatives that the president’s administration is examining to what extent keeping the US forces there can be credible and achievable; knowing that the US is concerned with reducing the presence of its troops on stages, in anticipation of future confrontations with China and Russia.”
The Israeli officials confirmed that “one of the reasons for reducing the US forces lies in the increase in Daesh’s outreach in the Sinai peninsula, while the Egyptian army is facing difficulty in eliminating armed groups targeting the Egyptian army daily, especially in the Sinai Province, north of the peninsula.”
He revealed that “several years ago, the international forces moved their headquarters from the Arish area to Sharm El-Sheikh, as a necessary step to protect the command from potential attacks by armed groups and to cancel patrols along the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. The international forces vacated their positions in the north and central Sinai in 2016, lest Daesh targets them.”
Ben Menachem added that “the international forces started their work in the Sinai Peninsula in April 1982, where they perform a primary mission and finance the work of the rest of the troops coming from other countries. The international forces constitute a model for deploying more forces in other regions of the Middle East as Egypt faces difficulties in ensuring the safety of its border with (Israel).”
He conveyed that “the decision to evacuate or reduce the presence of the US forces is the reason for the Egyptian army’s recent decision to establish a 14 km security barrier along the border with the Gaza Strip, to thwart the passage of militants from the Gaza Strip to Sinai and join Daesh. This phenomenon has increased in recent months, prompting Egypt to take this step.”
Ben Menachem revealed that “the security coordination between Egypt and (Israel) in Sinai is undergoing very advanced stages, and it is considered the strongest in years and decades. The two parties are working against Hamas and Daesh.
Senior officials in Tel Aviv said that the two countries asked the United States to abstain from taking any step that would lead to evacuating or reducing the number of its soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula.”