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EGYPT AND ISRAEL: Israel approves first Egyptian military deployment in Sinai since 1979

January 31, 2011 |  3:33 pm

Responding to a request from Egypt, Israel has approved the deployment of Egyptian troops in Sinai amid civil unrest in Egypt.

According to news reports, two battalions -- about 800 soldiers -- are headed for the resort of Sharm el Sheik. This is a first since the 1979 peace treaty between the two countries, which limits the security presence in Sinai to police forces.

Overseeing the security provisions of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt is the Multinational Force and Observers, which issued a statement Monday saying it "continues to conduct its mission of peace in the current extraordinary circumstances in Egypt" but said nothing about the reported military deployment.

Reuven Rivlin, speaker of Israel's parliament, or Knesset, has urgently asked the Knesset's legal advisor whether allowing the Egyptian army into Sinai requires a vote in parliament.

Hebrew media reported Monday that Rivlin thinks the legislature may have to approve any break from the treaty, which defines the peninsula as a demilitarized zone. This was the case in 2005, when Israel handed over the so-called Philadelphi corridor between Gaza and Egypt to about 750 Egyptian border guards after Israel's disengagement from the Gaza Strip. Then too it had been Rivlin's initiative, supported by the parliament's legal advisor.

-- Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem

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