Israel agrees to two Egypt battalions for Sinai

Israel has given Egypt the go-ahead to deploy two battalions to the Sinai to tackle militants in the sensitive region where deployments are restricted by treaty, army radio reported Tuesday.

Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon gave his approval to a request from the Egyptian army to station one battalion at El-Arish in the north of the peninsula and one at Sharm al-Sheikh in the south, the radio said.

Israel already gave its backing earlier this month to Egypt's deployment of a first batch of troop reinforcements to the Sinai, where deployments are restricted under the terms of the 1979 peace treaty between the two neighbours.

"The Egyptian military activity in the Sinai is coordinated with Israeli security elements and authorised at the most senior levels in Israel, in order to contend with security threats in the Sinai that pose a threat to both Israel and Egypt," an army statement said at the time.

The Egyptian army is preparing to go on the offensive against Islamist militants in the Sinai who have escalated attacks since president Mohamed Morsi's overthrow on July 3.

Over the past two weeks, militants have launched almost daily attacks on troops and police in the peninsula, killing several members of the security forces and two Egyptian Christians.

At dawn on Monday, militants killed three workers from a cement factory in an attack on the bus in which they were travelling in El-Arish.

A senior Egyptian military official confirmed to AFP on Monday that the army "will carry out an operation" in the Sinai, without giving further details.

The army knew the militant leaders by name and their location, he said, adding that most of the militants "live with their family, in villages".