Sources: Egypt will not escalate response to Israeli killing of Egyptian soldiers

Dina Ezzat , Saturday 20 Aug 2011

An informed source reveals behind-the-scene efforts to calm the sticky diplomatic quagmire caused by Israel's killing of five Egyptian soldiers Thursday night

Demonstration outside of Israeli Embassy in Cairo
Demonstration outside of Israeli Embassy in Cairo, Photo: Mai Shaheen

"At the moment we are inclined to summon our ambassador in Tel Aviv for consultations, but I don’t think we will go very far beyond this; the ambassador will come for a few days or a couple of weeks and then he will go back," said an informed Egyptian official.

The official acknowledged some attempts from influential Western capitals to dissuade Egypt from an overly harsh, angry reaction over the killing of Egyptian soldiers on the borders with Israel Thursday night. The soldiers were killed in the wake of an Israeli attack on the besieged Gaza strip that spilled into Egyptian border and territories.

Egyptians have been protesting in front of the Israeli embassy demanding, among ther things, to expel the Israeli ambassador from Egypt and cut off relations.

Conversely, the message that has been coming from some capitals, including Washington, according to this source, is that Israel had warned Egypt of conspicuous tunnels being dug between Gaza and the eastern Egyptian borders that are being used to smuggle weapons.

Egypt had already received an Israeli agreement to upgrade the military presence on the borders between Egypt and Israel beyond the limitations of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. It was intended to raise Egypt’s control of the situation in Sinai in the wake of infiltration of some militants from Gaza into Sinai through the tunnels.

"We shared information with Israel to the effect that these militants are only pockets of a radical militant group in Gaza; and I am not talking about Hamas," said another Egyptian official. "We had been sharing concern about the situation in Sinai and the Israelis know very well through the consultations of the past few days that this situation is [just as much] a reason for our concern as it is for theirs," he added.

Cairo has been trying to keep its relations with Tel Aviv in order since the end of the Hosni Mubarak regime on 11 February. They sent clear assurances to Tel Aviv, Washington and other capitals that the end of the Mubarak regime would not entail any change in the nature of peaceful relations with Israel.

Cairo, according to the same officials, is not planning to bring up the issue of re-negotiating the details of the Egyptian military presence in Sinai, as specified by the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.

"This is not planned for now; what we are working on now is to contain the situation and restore order," said the informed Egyptian official.

He added that Cairo is still expecting to keep the upgraded military presence in Sinai within the current range that has been agreed upon with Israel.

According to a Sinai-based security source, security measures are being firmly stepped up.

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