This month marks 30 years since the U.S. helped to broker a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, which formally ended the state of war that had existed between Israel and the largest of the seven Arab nations that launched a war to exterminate the nascent Jewish state in 1948.
An integral part of that Israei-Egyptian peace treaty involved the deployment of 5,000 American troops in the Sinai, to act as an active buffer between these nations.
That American buffer operation became ever more critical over the past few months, following Israel’s incursion into Gaza, which was preceded by massive weapons traffic across the Sinai-Gaza border
The U.S. military has now been sending officers and technical teams to inspect the 10-mile Sinai-Gaza border, working both in Egypt as well as in the Gaza Strip.
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“They are being allowed by Egypt and Hamas to inspect both sides of the border,” an Egyptian source told the Middle East Newsline.
Last week, a four-member U.S. team crossed the Rafah border terminal from Sinai into the Gaza Strip. The team consisted of security officers as well as technicians from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“Hamas has been told that there must be improved security to prevent weapons smuggling if the border with Egypt is open,” a source said. “The Americans have been bringing equipment and advisers to improve the border situation.”
In 2008, the U.S. military launched a program to block weapons smuggling from Sinai to the Gaza Strip. The program focused on training and equipment to detect the flow of goods through the estimated 800 tunnels that span Rafah, divided between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.
The U.S. efforts were suspended during the 22-day Hamas-Israel war, which ended on Jan. 18.
U.S. military advisers had been ordered back to Cairo amid heavy Israeli air strikes along the Rafah border.
Since then, Egypt has sent at least one military team to the United States for training on tunnel detection and demolition. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was said to have introduced sonar equipment to detect underground activity.
Egypt has also allowed relief aid convoys to enter Gaza, which have included donations of medicine and food from Libya and several European states.
The U.S. military on the Gaza border has thus far avoided any direct combat situations, and have yet to become a target of terror attacks, which is one reason why there has been little press attention to the American role on the Gaza border.
David Bedein can be reached at email@example.com