EL-ARISH, Egypt – The Egyptian military has dispatched hundreds of additional soldiers to the northern Sinai Peninsula to guard a pipeline that carries natural gas to Israel, security officials said Thursday.
An Israeli defense official said the Jewish state has agreed to the deployment, which follows a Feb. 5 explosion at a gas terminal in the area that disrupted the flow of gas to Israel and Jordan. Security officials said a bomb caused the blast at the el-Arish terminal, while Egypt's natural gas company said it was caused by a gas leak.
The troop deployment is in addition to the roughly 800 troops Israel agreed to let Egypt move to north Sinai in late January for the first time since the countries made peace three decades ago. Under the 1979 peace treaty, Israel returned the captured Sinai to Egypt. In return, Egypt agreed to leave the area demilitarized.
The Egyptian security officials said the soldiers have been taking up positions along the line since Tuesday.
Gas pipelines running through north Sinai, which is home to Bedouin tribes who resist government control, have come under attack in the past. Bedouin tribesmen attempted to blow up the pipeline last July as tensions intensified between them and the Egyptian government, which they accuse of discrimination and of ignoring their plight.
Officials say tribesmen have joined forces with Islamic militants, some of whom escaped from prisons during the uprising that led to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's ouster last week.
The groups have attacked police stations in the Sinai.
All of the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss troop movements.
Associated Press writer Amy Teibel in Jerusalem contributed to this report.