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The Mideast

Israel Sends Warships to Egyptian Border as Iran Dispatches Fleet to Red Sea

Israel sent two more warships to the Red Sea border with Egypt, the military said Tuesday, part of a military reinforcement there following warnings that militants are planning another attack on southern Israel from Egyptian soil. This comes as Iran's Press TV reports that Tehran has decided to send the 15th fleet to the Red Sea, ynetnews.com reports.

Iran's Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari told Iranian TV that the objective is to patrol the high seas and to thwart pirate attacks.

"The presence of Iran's army in the high seas will convey the message of peace and friendship to all countries," he said, according to the website.

Earlier this week, Israel's military ordered more troops to the border area following intelligence reports of an impending attack, days after militants crossed into Israel through the Egyptian border and killed eight Israelis in a brazen attack that touched off a wave of violence between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip.

Relative calm has returned, but Israel has remained on alert since the deadly Aug. 18 raid, closing roads near the border and warning citizens against traveling to Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, a popular vacation destination for Israelis.

Israel's Home Front Minister Matan Vilnai said Tuesday that militants from the Gaza-based Islamic Jihad were in Sinai, waiting to strike.

"The Palestinian Islamic Jihad wants to carry out a terror attack along the Egyptian border," Vilnai told reporters. "The Egyptian border is absolutely porous. We have known this for many years."

The attack this month sparked calls to increase security on both sides of the frontier and created new tensions between Israel and Egypt, which have maintained cool relations since signing a 1979 peace treaty. The violence shattered the usual sense of calm that has held for decades along the border, though there have been sporadic attacks in Sinai.

Beyond announcing that two more warships were patrolling the border area, the military would give no further details.

Israel has a permanent naval presence with a base in Eilat, at the northern tip of the Red Sea on the Egyptian border. The Israeli military would not disclose the number of warships usually positioned on its maritime border with Egypt or from where the two extra ships were sent.

Access for ships to the Eilat naval base from the rest of Israel is possible only through Egypt's Suez Canal. Egyptian officials there were not immediately available for comment.

No changes in security alignments have been observed on the Egyptian side of the border in the last two weeks. Earlier this month, the Egyptian government dispatched thousands of additional troops to Sinai as part of a major operation against al-Qaida inspired militants who have been increasingly active since longtime Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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