Israel: Egypt's tanks in zone violate treaty
JERUSALEM -- Israeli officials said Egypt is violating the historic 1979 peace treaty between the two countries by deploying tanks in the demilitarized Sinai Desert near the Israeli border.
The officials said Tuesday they have relayed their objections to the Egyptians directly and through American mediators. An Egyptian border official confirmed that his Israeli counterparts had voiced concerns.
Egypt has been building up its military presence in the lawless area since Islamic militants there attacked an army post on Aug. 5 and killed 16 soldiers.
Under the peace accord, Egypt was allowed to have only lightly armed policemen in the zone along the border with Israel. Limited numbers of tanks were permitted in a zone on the far western side of the peninsula, within 30 miles of the Suez Canal.
Israel, which also views the Islamic militants as a threat, agreed last year to exceptions to the treaty allowing Egypt's military to deploy troops with heavier weaponry into the most sensitive zone of eastern Sinai close to the border.
Egyptian troops moved in after the Aug. 5 attack, backed by armored personnel carriers and attack helicopters, in coordination with the Israelis. The Israeli officials alleged, however, that the deployment of heavier M60 battle tanks went further than agreed and violated the accord. The Israelis say they should have been consulted.
The peace accord has been a cornerstone of regional stability for three decades, allowing Israel to divert its resources away from the Egyptian border and focus on its fronts with Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian territories. It was Israel's first peace agreement with an Arab state.