Egypt persuaded Israel to cancel a plan to assassinate the Hamas prime minister in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh, following the terror attacks near Eilat earlier this month, Egypt's Al Ahram newspaper reported Satruday, citing Palestinian sources.
Also Satruday, foreign sources reported over the weekend that Israel and Egypt had reached agreement on increasing the number of Egyptian troops deployed in Sinai, and that the parties are examing the possibility of making alterations to a few relevant articles in the peace treaty. These reports are in keeping with remarks quoted by The Economist, according to which Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel would permit Egypt to deploy helicopters, armored vehicles and thousands more soldiers in the peninsula.
Only a few hundred Egyptians gathered outside the Israeli embassy on Friday for what had been billed as the "million-man demonstration to expel the Israeli ambassador." The protesters, one of whom fired shots into the air, were met by large numbers of soldiers and police officers, who made it clear they would keep them away from the building.
The main reason for the meager turnout was probably the message delivered in a conversation held by military figures and the interior minister with representatives of some of the participating groups, according to which the planned demonstration did not serve national interests.
The groups the ministers appealed to included the April 6 movement, which initiated the civil revolt that began in January, as well as the Islamic Brotherhood and official opposition movements.
"There was no official meeting between the Interior Ministry and heads of the movements in preparation for the demonstration, but there were phone calls between senior government officials and representatives, during which it was explained that an overly large demonstration could cause a confrontation between the army and civilians, and that it would be unhelpful for such a demonstration to take place specifically outside the Israeli embassy," an Egyptian journalist associated with the April 6 movement told Haaretz.
The movement announced Satruday it was ending its sit-down strike outside the embassy, because "the message we wanted to send to Israel and the United States got through, and we want to allow the Egyptian army and government to obtain Egypt's rights through diplomatic means." The April 6 movement has not, however, rescinded its demand to expel the Israeli ambassador, revoke Egypt's trade agreements with Israel and amend the Camp David peace treaty to give the Egyptian army control over the entire Sinai Peninsula, including the demilitarized zone.
Egypt's ability to influence Israeli operational plans, as in the decision not to assassinate Haniyeh, is also used by government officials in Cairo to explain why it has not expelled the Israeli ambassador.
Egyptian officials are now waiting for the army and the Israel Defense Forces to coordinate their joint investigation of the terror attacks near the Egyptian border.
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