Egyptian military officials said Saturday that the army has prohibited fishing boats from operating off the coast of the Sinai peninsula near the Gaza Strip until further notice. According to the officials, the purpose of the move, which has been implemented since Thursday, is to prevent Palestinian Jihad terrorists from infiltrating Egypt via the Mediterranean Sea.
According to a source in the Egyptian army, Ynet reported, the success in the closing off of smuggling tunnels on the Egypt-Gaza border has lead to infiltration attempts by boat. Recently, the source added, a number of Palestinians have been arrested on such boats by Egyptian Border Policemen after trying to cross the border.
On Monday, Israel approved Cairo’s request to allow two more infantry battalions into the Sinai region.
The new forces joined a large number of Egyptian troops already operating in the area, in an agreed departure from the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace agreement.
The additional forces mean that Egypt now has 11 infantry battalions deployed in the Sinai, as well as a tank battalion and assault helicopters — all dispatched with Israel’s formal approval, as required by the treaty.
Since the military deposed the Islamist president Mohammed Morsi on July 3, militant groups have lashed out with increased violence. The peninsula has seen several recent attacks, assassination attempts, and kidnappings. In the past two weeks, at least nine Egyptian security officers have been killed in battles with gunmen.