Activists: Israeli Forces Enter Egypt for Migrants
Israel has been sending soldiers into Egypt’s Sinai desert to stop African migrants before they reach the border and handing them over to Egyptian forces, human rights groups charged in a report released Friday.
The groups called on Israel to stop the practice.
Israel has been increasingly concerned over the numbers of African migrants sneaking across the porous border. Most come from Sudan, South Sudan, and Eritrea. About 60,000 migrants are already in Israel, and some Israelis have expressed concern that the influx could harm the Jewish character of their state.
A senior Egyptian military official in Sinai denied that any Israeli soldiers entered Egypt to chase migrants. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press.
The Israeli military spokesman’s office said it would not confirm or deny the specific report, as is military policy. But it added, ”in line with protocol, Israeli military activity is within Israel.”
It said Israeli forces are working ”to prevent the infiltration of both hostile terror elements as well as criminal smuggling.” It said Israeli soldiers have stopped groups several times and held them ”until the arrival of Egyptian forces that took the infiltrators,” but did not comment on where this took place.
The groups said the Israeli military censor banned Israel-based journalists from writing about the report.
The use of Israeli soldiers just inside Egyptian territory, with apparent Egyptian consent, would be a startling move, given widespread anti-Israeli sentiment among Egyptians and the strong sensitivities over Sinai, which Israel captured in the 1967 war and returned after the 1979 peace deal between the two countries. Cooperation with Israel is a touchy subject in Egypt, which has had cool relations with Israel since the peace treaty was signed.