World Bulletin / News Desk
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has demanded the tanks be withdrawn after the deployment of Egyptian armour in a push against gunmen in the neighbouring Sinai desert.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government resorted to U.S. mediation, to avoid worsening ties with Cairo already strained since Hosni Mubarak was toppled by a popular revolt last year. The officials said they have relayed their objections to the Egyptians directly and through American mediators.
The Maariv daily reported that Netanyahu has demanded the tanks be withdrawn, though officials could not confirm the report. Netanyahu's office declined comment.
Egyptian security sources said this week they were preparing to deploy aircraft and tanks in Sinai for the first time since a 1973 war with Israel, in a crackdown on gunmen blamed for killing 16 border guards in an Aug.5 attack.
Under the peace accord, Egypt is allowed to have only lightly armed policemen in the zone along the border with Israel. Limited numbers of tanks are permitted only in a zone on the far western side of the peninsula, within 30 miles (50 kilometers) of the Suez Canal.
Israel agreed last year to exceptions to the treaty, allowing Egypt's military to deploy troops with heavier weaponry into the zone of eastern Sinai close to the Israeli border. Israel made similar exceptions during its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005.
The Israeli official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said Egypt had already sent some armoured vehicles into the desert peninsula and that "Israel is bothered by the entry of armoured vehicles in Sinai without coordination."
Egyptian television footage showed General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Sinai addressing troops with tanks and heavy equipment behind them. Other images from his visit broadcast by Egypt's private ON TV showed a row of six tanks and five armoured personnel carriers.
While Israel does not view the armour as a threat, the official said, it wants to make sure it has a say over what weaponry is deployed in the Sinai.
"There is no precedent for armoured vehicles being deployed in Sinai and certainly not without any coordination," he said.
Israel had urged Egypt to crack down on the gunmen, and its security cabinet had approved an Egyptian request to use attack helicopters in Sinai two weeks ago.
In Cairo, Yasser Ali, a spokesman for Mursi, told Reuters security measures in Sinai were crucial to Egypt's security.
An Egyptian military source told Reuters the Sinai security sweep was in keeping with agreements reached with Israel a year ago after eight Israelis died in a cross-border attack.
"We don't need to issue a daily report to Israel on the operation as it is a matter of sovereignty and national security," the source went on to say.
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