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Israel Concerned About Potential Withdrawal of US Forces from Sinai

Israel Concerned About Potential Withdrawal of US Forces from Sinai

Saturday, 9 May, 2020 - 06:00
An Israeli soldier stands next to concrete barriers near Israel's border fence with Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, in Israel's Negev Desert, Feb. 10, 2016. Photo by REUTERS/Amir Cohen.

Israel announced on Friday it would discuss with the United States a potential withdrawal of US troops from an international peacekeeping force in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, calling its nearly four-decade-old presence "important".

A report published by The Wall Street Journal on Thursday said US Defense Secretary Mark Esper is urging the withdrawal of US troops from the force despite opposition from Israel and the US State Department.

Commenting on the report, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, who is a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet, told Tel Aviv radio station 102 FM that the international force in Sinai is important, and the American participation in it is important.

"Certainly, the issue will be raised between us and the Americans," he said.

The peacekeeping force was founded in 1981 to help maintain the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, which was signed with US backing in 1979.

The US and Egyptian embassies in Israel did not immediately respond to requests for comment, nor did the international force's office in Israel, Reuters said.

The WSJ report said Israeli chief of staff Aviv Kohavi recently spoke to US Army General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Milley’s spokesman, without elaboration.

According to its website, the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) has 1,156 military personnel from the United States and 12 other countries covering an area of more than 10,000 square kilometers in the restive peninsula.

It includes 400 American troops. But the size of the force has decreased by over 30 percent since 2015, according to data from its website.

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