Egypt’s Military Ruler Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi said the Egyptian Armed Forces would defend the borders with Israel if necessary, state media reported after an Israeli official voiced concerns about relations between the two neighbors.
Ties between Egypt and Israel have been strained since a popular uprising toppled President Hosni Mubarak, who had put a peace treaty with Israel at the center of his regional policy.
Israel has also said it was concerned by a security vacuum in Egypt’s Sinai region on its border.
Addressing troops in the Sinai Peninsula during annual field exercises, Tantawi said: “Our borders, especially the northeast ones, are inflamed. We do not attack neighboring countries but will defend our territory. We will break the legs of any trying to attack us or come near the borders,” MENA news agency quoted him as saying.
“Therefore our forces must be on alert and constant combat readiness,” he added.
Tantawi’s comments came after Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said Egypt’s decision to end a gas supply deal with Israel “casts a shadow on the peace agreements and the peaceful atmosphere between Egypt and Israel.”
The Israeli daily Maariv also quoted Lieberman to have said: “The Egyptian issue is far more disturbing than the Iranian question.”
Egypt formally requested that Israel look into Lieberman’s statements.
Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous nation, was the first to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, a move that prompted the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981 by Islamists.
Egypt’s relations with Israel have worsened since the uprising that ousted Mubarak, seen as a friend of the Jewish state, in February 2011.
Egypt announced on Sunday that it had annulled a contract to export gas to Israel, accusing it of failing to meet its financial obligations under the deal.
Israel has expressed concerns over rocket attacks against its cities from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, home to Islamist and Bedouin militants who have repeatedly bombed the pipeline supplying gas to Israel.
Source: Al Arabiya; MENA; Maariv