Israel agrees to allow more Egyptian forces in Sinai
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Israel agrees to allow more Egyptian forces in Sinai

Move comes as Cairo works to create buffer zone on Gaza border, root out extremists in peninsula

Egyptian military helicopters fly over the eastern Sinai Peninsula, October 18, 2012. (photo credit: Egyptian Presidency/AFP)
Egyptian military helicopters fly over the eastern Sinai Peninsula, October 18, 2012. (photo credit: Egyptian Presidency/AFP)

Israel gave the Egyptian army authorization to move two more battalions into the Sinai Peninsula Thursday.

In addition to the infantry battalions, the Egyptians will also move attack helicopters into positions in the Sinai, according to Army Radio, which reported that the decision was made in order to enable Egypt to fight radical elements in the peninsula.

Egypt has ramped up its operations in the Sinai since an attack last month on a military installation by local jihadist organization Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis left 31 soldiers dead. Following the attack, Egypt closed its border with the Gaza Strip and began construction on a buffer zone in the area.

The Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty limits the number of troops Cairo can deploy in the Sinai, but Israel has given its blessing to move in more forces as Egypt began making a concerted effort last year to rein in Islamist groups.

Israel’s southern neighbor has been battling to quell violence in the peninsula since President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi led a coup to topple then-president Mohammed Morsi, who was Egypt’s first democratically elected president.

In July 2013, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon authorized Egypt to deploy two infantry battalions in the Sinai region, in the el-Arish and Rafah areas, bringing the total Egyptian army presence to 11 infantry battalions, as well as a tank battalion and assault helicopters.

Despite an extensive campaign, attacks on Egyptian security forces have persisted and even spread to the capital in the form of suicide bombings and assassination attempts against Egyptian officials.

Avi Issacharoff contributed to this report.

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