Israel rejects reports of U.S. withdrawing Sinai force

Ben Sales

TEL AVIV (JTA) — A senior Israeli defense official disavowed reports that the United States is considering withdrawing its peacekeeping force in the Sinai Peninsula.

“These reports aren’t true,” said Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry’s Political-Military Affairs Bureau, told Army Radio, according to reports. “They reflect only the surmising of some people.”

The 700-member Multinational Force and Observers was placed in the Sinai to monitor compliance with the Camp David Accords. The accords brought about Israeli-Egyptian peace in return for an Israeli withdrawal from the territory.

The force has little offensive capability and has faced rising danger from Islamic militants, according to The Associated Press. Militant activity in the area has increased since Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was deposed in 2013 and replaced by Abdel Fatah Al Sisi, who has launched a campaign to defeat the Sinai militants.

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But Gilad said that there was every reason to believe the force was staying put.

“Israeli-Egyptian peace relations are a strategic pillar of the region,” he said. “The force is acceptable to the Americans, Egyptians, Israelis. Its budget was recently increased. The administrative and command echelons are doing everything to preserve it. None of its members have been hurt or killed.”

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