Ehud Barak
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, flanked by IDF chief Benny Gantz, left, and GOC Southern Command Tal Russo. Photo by Moti Milrod
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Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Saturday that Israel has no intention at this time of approving additional Egyptian troops in the eastern Sinai Peninsula.

Barak's statement comes despite a report Friday in Haaretz and the British weekly The Economist that the defense minister said it was in Israel's interest to allow Egypt to bring in larger forces to overcome the ongoing anarchy along the border with Israel.

Such additional troops would not be in accordance with the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, and following Friday's reports, Knesset Speaker MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud ) said he would be looking into whether any alteration of the peace agreement would require Knesset approval.

Following the reports, Barak sought through associates to correct the impression that had been given. An official in his bureau said Saturday: "No request has been submitted by Egypt to augment troops and if such a request is made, it will be examined in the appropriate forums. There is no automatic approval and the forces that have already been approved will depart on the agreed-on date."

The statement referred to the approval a number of times in recent months by the defense establishment for Egypt to deploy additional troops in the eastern Sinai Peninsula to restore order and protect the gas pipeline to Israel.

The security addendum to the Camp David agreements limits the numbers of security personnel and weapons that Egypt can deploy in the Sinai Peninsula.

Two weeks ago the Egyptian army launched a major operation in the El Arish area against Islamic terror groups that had attacked a police station. Israel allowed Egypt to bring in more than 1,000 soldiers and armored personnel to carry out the operation.

Meanwhile, Friday afternoon, eight days after the terror attack on the Israeli-Egyptian border near Eilat, GOC Home Front Command Maj. Gen. Eyal Eisenberg decided following an evaluation to cancel the special instructions that had been issued to protect residents of communities in the south and near the border with the Gaza Strip following the attack and the ensuing escalation of rocket fire.

Among the prohibitions canceled, Eisenberg lifted the ban on gatherings of more than 500 people.

After Islamic Jihad agreed to the cease-fire declared by Hamas, the firing of missiles and rockets at Israel from the Gaza Strip stopped almost entirely.

Two rockets fired Friday toward the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council caused no damage or injuries, and no rockets were fired at all Saturday.

In a related matter, the commander of the Golani Brigade, Col. Ofek Buchris, told the family of Staff Sgt. Moshe Naftali, who was killed in the terror attack on the Egyptian border, that preliminary findings indicate that Naftali was killed by friendly fire.

Speaking to the family at their home in the West Bank settlement of Ofra, Buchris said that the force, consisting of four soldiers from anti-tank company, commanded by Naftali, had arrived first on the scene and left their armored vehicle together to engage the terrorists, who were firing at passing vehicles.

One of the soldiers, who was aiming at a terrorist, hit Naftali by mistake due to the proximity of the four and their attempt to move quickly to return fire at the terrorists. The soldier who shot Naftali is not to be charged.

The investigation initially assumed that Naftali had been shot by a terrorist.

The Israel Defense Forces Spokesman said: "The investigation revealed that the forces dealing with the incident acted with determination and professionalism to bring it to a swift conclusion and take out the terrorists. The late Staff Sgt. Moshe Naftali led his soldiers courageously against the terrorists and in the coming days the probe will continue in order to learn from and to prevent such an incident in the future."