Deputy Chief of General Staff Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh inaugurated a new Israel Defense Forces base on the Israel-Egypt border on Tuesday. The base, named "Saguv," was built in six months and will house and serve as a staging center for security forces monitoring the southern border. The IDF has increased its presence on the border with Egypt since a group of terrorists infiltrated Israel last year and carried out a deadly attack that left eight Israelis dead.
The base is also seen as a considerable upgrade for the soldiers, who are already deployed in the area. As Israel Hayom has reported previously, soldiers serving in the area have complained of grueling living conditions.
Meanwhile, Egypt's military is deploying light armored vehicles in Sinai to replace a number of heavy tanks whose presence there had raised concerns in Israel, an Egyptian security source said on Tuesday.
A source said last week that the Egyptian army had begun withdrawing some of the tanks, after they had been used as part of an operation against Islamist terrorists who attacked and killed 16 Egyptian border guards on August 5.
Disorder has spread in Sinai since former President Hosni Mubarak's ouster last year. Analysts say Islamists with possible links to al-Qaida have gained a foothold there, which was cause for concern in Israel.
The unrest has occurred mainly in northern Sinai, where many residents carry firearms and have seen little to no benefits from the expanding Sinai tourism industry.
Israeli officials have privately voiced concerns about heavy equipment being sent to areas where there have been restrictions on weapon deployments under the 1979 peace treaty between the countries.
"Twenty tanks have been withdrawn from the central sector of Sinai toward Suez," an Israeli security source said, adding that about 20 armored vehicles have reached el-Arish, the administrative center of northern Sinai.
The sources did not give a clear answer to whether the withdrawal of tanks was taken in response to Israel's concerns or say how many tanks were still in Sinai.
The Egyptian army said last week it would broaden its campaign in Sinai, involving a redeployment of forces but did not specify to which areas they would redeploy.
"The operation is entering a new phase that requires different equipment capable of facing and handling the situation in Sinai," an Egyptian military official told Reuters on Tuesday.
Another security source said the tanks were removed to be replaced with more "useful equipment."
Analysts said there was no doubt that the tanks were taken out to assuage Israeli concerns. "Egypt's decision to remove tanks was taken to calm Israel after it voiced concerns about the presence of tanks near its borders," Safwat al Zayaat, a retired army general and military expert said.
"As if the tanks were, as Egypt is saying now, not useful then why did it send them there in the first place?" he said.
Meanwhile, an Egyptian security source said troops defused a land mine and a bomb on Tuesday planted by terrorists east of el-Arish. It was the fourth such incident since last week.
No one had yet claimed responsibility for the killing of the border guards on August 5. But a Sinai-based Islamist militant organization, the Salafi Jihadi Group — which denies any involvement in the border attack — warned the Egyptian army that the crackdown would force it to fight back.