As Egyptian weapons including tanks and helicopters take up position in the formerly demilitarized Sinai over angry Israeli objections [see “Israel voices worry over Egyptian tanks, troops in Sinai“], it appears (based on the report below from Egypt) that Egypt’s new Moslem Brotherhood leadership has called off the anti-terrorism sweep, preferring instead to talk with the terrorists. Meanwhile its forces remain there.
–Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi sent a secret delegation on Sunday to meet with Salafist jihadists in the Sinai, scene of the August 5 border attacks. Security sources said the militants agreed to halt terrorism operations for one week, in exchange for the release of prisoners and a halt to the army’s “Operation Eagle” counterinsurgency…
–“The delegation met with a number of Salafist figures in two mosques in Sheikh Zuwaid, and they reached an agreement to stop terrorist operations for a week, in return for the release of prisoners and the halt of Operation Eagle that is being implemented by the armed forces with the aim of cleansing the Sinai of terrorists,” the sources said.
–“The chief of presidential staff… will hold meetings with the jihadist Salafist leaders in order to develop a program for dialogue and stability in the region,” the sources added.
–Three presidential cars arrived and entered the cities of Rafah and Sheikh Zuwaid at 7 p.m. and then were later seen on the highway outside the city at 11 p.m. en route to Cairo…
–The presidency has concluded a deal with jihadist groups in the Sinai following threats by these groups to expand their terrorist operations to a number of Egyptian governorates should the Egyptian army continue with Operation Eagle, aimed at cleansing the Sinai of Jihadists.
–The source said that it is due to these negotiations that Operation Eagle was stopped 48 hours ago. The nostalgic and optimistic among our readers might enjoy ‘Egypt’s tanks are in Sinai for fighting terrorism’. The rest of us might want to note that Egypt’s deployment on Israel’s southern border in the wake of “the battle to defeat the Sinai jihadists” now suddenly includes main battle tanks (MBTs) and surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), particularly in the northeastern Sinai area, between the coastal city of El Arish and the border with Israel and Gaza [source].
The U.S.-made MBTs are M-60A3, exported to Egypt in the 1980s. Between 20 and 30 have been deployed in eastern Sinai.
The Boeing-produced Avenger air defense system, also deployed near the Israeli border, contains the Stinger surface-to-air missile. These were supplied to Egypt over the last five years.
Egypt has deployed Dutch-produced YPR-765 armored personnel carriers with their 30 mm automatic gun turrets. The Egyptian Army is believed to have about 430 such APCs. [source]
An AP syndicated story from August 15 [“Sinai terror group warns Egyptian army to cease crackdown: Statement on Jihadist website says Israel, not soldiers is groups main focus“] now also provides some interesting after-the-fact reading.
We wrote some weeks ago about the worrying signs emanating from Sinai and the Egyptian moves. See “10-Aug-12: Egypt is pouring forces into Sinai but does anyone know for sure what they are actually doing there?” We very much hope the concerns we expressed prove to be misplaced.