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The New Triangle of Egypt, Israel, and Hamas


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the-new-triangle-of-egypt-israel-and-hamas#.UtlThR3zXbs.twitterThe Washington Institute for Near East Policy:

With Israeli acquiescence to de facto alterations of the 1979 peace treaty, Egypt has deployed substantial military forces into the Sinai to combat terrorists. But Israel remains hesitant about Cairo's inclination to increase pressure on Hamas in Gaza.

Ehud Yaari

January 17, 2014


Over the past year, Israel and Egypt have used a little-known, legally permissible understanding -- the Agreed Activities Mechanism -- to bypass restrictions on the number and type of Egyptian forces permitted in much of the Sinai. In doing so, they have made de facto modifications to their 1979 peace treaty without resorting to the diplomatically risky procedure of "reviewing" the treaty itself. As a result, considerable Egyptian army forces are now constantly deployed in central and eastern Sinai (Areas B and C of the peninsula, respectively), in a manner and scope never envisaged by the teams that negotiated the treaty more than three decades ago. Going forward, this new reality on the ground is unlikely to be reversed and is bound to have profound consequences for Egyptian-Israeli security cooperation, Cairo's ongoing counterterrorism campaign, and the fate of Hamas in the neighboring Gaza Strip.



The Military Annex of the 1979 treaty imposed strict limitations on the number of soldiers and type of weapons Egypt could deploy in the peninsula, as well as where they could be deployed. Specifically, it prohibited Cairo from stationing any military forces in Areas B and C other than lightly armed police or border guards. Since last year, however, the Egyptian military presence in these areas has often reached an order of battle approaching the size of a light mechanized division -- in other words, roughly equivalent to the maximal 22,000 troops permitted along line A in western Sinai, an area not subject to the same stringent Annex restrictions.


This de facto change in the way the treaty is observed and implemented came about through a series of quiet bilateral understandings smoothly negotiated under the auspices of the Multinational Force of Observers (MFO), currently led by veteran U.S. diplomat David Satterfield. By way of the Agreed Activities Mechanism, a long-existing understanding reached under the MFO and never publicized widely, Israel agreed to allow the introduction of Egyptian troops into "prohibited" regions in central and eastern Sinai, and later a steady expansion in size and quality of military equipment. Today, Cairo regularly employs Apache attack helicopters, armored carriers, and elite commando battalions in these areas, as well as occasional F-16 overflights, one or two tank companies, and more. Under Maj. Gen. Ahmed Wasfi, the Second Army has essentially based its headquarters in al-Arish, the capital of Sinai's northern governorate, for some time. In addition, smaller units from the Third Army were granted permission through the AAM to deploy in southern portions of the Sinai.



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