Israel plans to take control of Egypt's Sinai

The Egyptian ambassador to the Palestinian Authority warned Friday that Israel planned to take control of Egypt's Sinai.

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Yasser Othman told Ma'an that the tone of recent remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other high-level ministers indicated "the presence of an Israeli plan aimed at controlling Sinai."

Israeli leaders were trying to show the world that Egypt could not control its borders with Israel, Othman said.

But Egypt has increased its military presence in the peninsula and will maintain control without Israeli intervention, the envoy insisted.

"We should be ready for the Israeli plan to take Sinai in the coming period," he added.

Netanyahu and his Defense Minister Ehud Barak both warned in interviews published Wednesday that the situation in Sinai posed a "very troubling" threat to Israel.

Israel says a deadly attack on its south in August was staged partly from Sinai, and Netanyahu warned that forces hostile to peace between Egypt and Israel were exploiting a security vacuum in the area.

"There are a lot of forces that are seeking to undermine that peace, seeking to roll it back, seeking to use the Sinai not merely as a staging area for attacks from Gaza but seeking to use Gaza as a staging area for attacks from Sinai," he told the Jerusalem Post in an interview published Wednesday.

Tensions between Egypt and Israel, which have been rising since former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown, flared after the cross-border attack in August.

Cairo accused Israeli forces of shooting dead five Egyptian security guards during gun battles with militants who Israel says had earlier ambushed and killed eight Israelis. Egyptian protesters stormed the Israeli embassy in anger at Israel for the border killings.

Egypt's Prime Minister Essam Sharaf has said a peace deal with Israel was not "sacred" and could be changed for the benefit of peace or the region.

Under the 1979 peace treaty, Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula, which it captured in a 1967 war, and limits were set on the forces Egypt could deploy to the area.

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An Egyptian security official said in August that Egypt and Israel agreed to increase the number of Egyptian troops along the border.

But Israel's defense minister told the Maariv daily on Tuesday that despite the greater military presence, the situation in Sinai was "not solved."

"Sinai is an important asset for every Egyptian leadership, but I don't think that the leadership is in full control," Barak said.

He added that a tug-of-war was under way between the military council now ruling Egypt and the protesters who overthrew the Mubarak regime earlier this year.

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