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'Worried' Israel allows Egyptian troops into Sinai

ISRAEL has rallied to support President Hosni Mubarak by allowing Egyptian troops into the Sinai peninsula for the first time since a peace deal in 1979.

The concession came as it emerged that Egypt's neighbour had privately urged Western governments to end criticism of Mr Mubarak as he struggles to quell the protests.

The United States and its allies have signalled a shift away from earlier support of him. But Israel fears the overthrow of Egypt's president of 30 years could end one of the Jewish state's most important strategic alliances. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has instructed ministers to make no public comment on events in Egypt.

But his ambassadors abroad were ordered to plead with the governments of major powers to be more supportive of Mr Mubarak.

Mr Netanyahu said he was following events in Egypt with "vigilance and worry" and that he feared the country could be led by a radical Islamic regime like that in Iran.

The decision to allow two Egyptian battalions to deploy against protesters in Sinai, demilitarised since Israel's withdrawal from the territory after the Camp David accords of 1978, is a reflection of Mr Netanyahu's mounting concern.

Following a sharp deterioration in relations with its ally Turkey and the emergence of a Hizbollah-backed prime minister in Lebanon, Israel has begun to feel increasingly isolated in the Middle East. Mr Mubarak shares a mutual antipathy towards Iran and Hamas, which runs Gaza, and has been seen as a vital defender of Israel's security interests. Many Israelis fear that should they lose Egypt as an ally, Jordan, Israel's only other Arab partner, could follow suit. (© The Daily Telegraph)

Irish Independent