Egypt political figures, groups call for amending Camp David treaty

Zeinab El Gundy , Tuesday 7 Aug 2012

Political groups condemn Sunday border attack that left 16 Egyptian border guards dead, call for amendment of Camp David peace deal to allow Egyptian military deployments in restive Sinai Peninsula

Members of Hamas security forces patrol on the border between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip, near Rafah August 6, 2012 (Photo: Reuters)

Reactions by Egyptian political figures, groups and parties to Sunday's terrorist attack that killed 17 Egyptian border guards and injured seven more near Egypt's border with the Gaza Strip ranged from anger to sorrow. Many demanded that Egypt's new president, Mohamed Morsi, push for the amendment of Egypt's Camp David peace agreement with Israel and the security arrangements stipulated therein.

"What happened in Sinai is a deep wound," said, Mohamed Mahsoub, the newly-appointed parliamentary affairs minister.

"We must rethink the security arrangements [stipulated in the Camp David agreement] concerning restrictions on the movement of our troops [in the Sinai Peninsula]," Mahsoub said.

The 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel prohibits the former from deploying its armed forces or heavy weapons in the peninsula's eastern and central regions.

Following the killing of five Egyptian border guards in a cross-border raid by Israel in August of last year (which Israel claimed at the time had been a mistake), calls were revived for a modification of the peace treaty's terms to allow Egypt to more freely deploy troops in the area.

Speaking on Twitter on Sunday night, former presidential contender and Strong Egypt Party founder Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh mourned the slain border guards. In a separate statement, he called on the Egyptian army to seize control of Sinai and amend the peace treaty with the self-proclaimed Jewish state.

"The blood that has been spilled should force Egypt to assume full control of Sinai without the restrictions and obligations stipulated by this inequitable treaty that prevents Egypt's armed forces from deploying on Egyptian territory," said Abul-Fotouh, who is of moderate-Islamist political inclinations.

In statements issued Monday morning, former Arab League chief Amr Moussa likewise demanded the modification of the peace treaty. Moussa, also a former presidential candidate, while stressing his full support for the Palestinian cause, went on to praise the military's decision to close Egypt's borders with Gaza.

Aside from mourning the slain border guards, for whom he demanded a state funeral, former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi, in a Sunday statement, condemned what he described as "aggression by the Zionist air force" on Egyptian territory. 

On Sunday night, Ofir Gendelman, spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, stated that the Israeli military had targeted and destroyed at least one military vehicle allegedly hijacked by the perpetrators. There have been no further details, however, regarding the exact location of the vehicle – whether it had been on Egyptian or Israeli territory – when it was destroyed by Israeli forces.

Sabbahi also demanded that Egyptian authorities reconsider current security and political arrangements between Israel and Egypt so as to restore full control of Sinai to the latter.

Reform campaigner and former presidential candidate Ayman Nour, for his part, also condemned the attack. He called on Morsi to renegotiate the terms of the Camp David agreement in order to allow the deployment of Egyptian armed forces in Sinai.

Nour went on to say that his Ghad Al-Thawra Party (established in the wake of last year's revolution), along with other political parties and groups, would hold an emergency meeting at the party's Cairo headquarters to discuss the implications of the attack.

The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, meanwhile, issued a statement Sunday night describing the incident as a "criminal terrorist attack." The party went on to urge President Morsi (until recently the head of the FJP), the government, and the head of Egypt's armed forces to take all steps necessary to deal with "this challenge to Egyptian national sovereignty" and to "protect Sinai from all militant groups."

Several leading members of the Brotherhood and the FJP have also voiced suspicions that Sunday's attack represented an attempt by unknown parties to sabotage Morsi's ongoing efforts to restore domestic Egyptian security in line with campaign promises to this effect.

The moderate-Islamist Wasat Party, for its part, in a Sunday night statement, demanded a swift response to the attack so as to "avenge the blood of Egypt's fallen heroes." The party also called for the "arrest the terrorists behind the attack," whether they be Egyptian or foreign.

Egypt's liberal Wafd Party similarly condemned the attack, noting that the party had already warned of the dangers posed by what it describes as "terrorist sleeper cells" in the Sinai Peninsula targeting Egypt's democratic transition.

The Salafist Front in North Sinai, meanwhile, in a Sunday statement, called on local residents of the border region to help Egypt's military find and arrest the "terrorist cells" that carried out the attack.

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