Israel allows Egypt to use ‘terror-fighting’ gunships in Sinai

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Cabinet reportedly has agreed to allow Egypt to use gunships in the Sinai peninsula.

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The news site of the Israeli Broadcasting Authority said Friday that the Egyptian government had asked Israel for its agreement to introduce attack helicopters to “fight terrorists” who carried out an attack earlier this week that left 16 Egyptian soldiers dead.

The attackers attempted an infiltration, apparently targeting a kibbutz in Israel, but were stopped by Israeli Air Force attacks.

The 1979 Camp David peace accords stipulate that Sinai is to remain demilitarized, although in recent years Israel has agreed to exceptions in order to prevent terrorist attacks and stop cross-border infiltrations..

The London-based pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat reported Friday the Egypt has demanded from Hamas, the terrorist group controlling the Gaza Strip, that it hand over three suspects allegedly connected to the case.

The three are leaders of the Salafi terrorist group Army of Islam, according to Reuters report. 

One of the attackers’ bodies was identified as a member of the Gaza-based group, according to the report. 

One of the men Egypt is demanding is of Yemeni origin, according to Asharq Al-Awsat.

Egyptian security officials told Reuters that Egyptian troops have killed at least 20 people in a series of skirmishes in the Sinai over the past week.

Hundreds of troops and dozens of military vehicles had reached al-Arish, the main administrative center in North Sinai, Egyptian security sources told Reuters on Thursday. 

Egyptian authorities on Friday opened the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip for two days to allow Palestinians to return to their homes, Israel Radio reported.

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