The Egyptian military has deployed a large military force near the border crossing with Israel at Taba in order to prevent rocket and missile attacks on Israel, and especially on Israeli civilian airplanes.

Egyptian sources estimate the force is about the size of a battalion, or several hundred men. The move was coordinated with Israel.

Egypt is concerned that jihadist operatives in the Sinai Peninsula who are affiliated with al-Qaeda may try to down an Israeli civilian aircraft flying near the border during its approach for landing in the resort town of Eilat.

In January, members of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, an Egyptian Islamist militant group, downed an Egyptian military helicopter, killing the five officers aboard. Investigation of the incident found that the jihadist group used SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles smuggled from Libya.

Army trucks carry Egyptian military tanks in Egypt's northern Sinai Peninsula, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. (photo credit:AP)

Army trucks carry Egyptian military tanks in Egypt’s northern Sinai Peninsula, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. (photo credit:AP)

Since that incident, Israeli, Egyptian and Jordanian concerns have increased that these groups will try to down a civilian aircraft within range of such missiles. For that reason the Egyptian Third Army decided to deploy a battalion of soldiers near the Israeli border just outside Eilat in order to prevent similar occurrences.

January’s incident was not the first in which jihadist groups used missiles of this kind. During the attack on an Israeli bus near Eilat in August 2011, in which eight Israelis were killed, an IAF helicopter pilot reported that an RPG was fired at his aircraft. An Israeli investigation found that an SA-7 was used in that attack as well.

The threat of anti-aircraft weapons has the potential to inflict serious harm on the tourism industries of Egypt, Israel and Jordan in the Gulf of Eilat.

Over the past several years, numerous rockets have been fired at the southern port city of Eilat from the Sinai Peninsula. The Egyptian force will also serve to prevent similar attacks on Israeli civilians.