Only Egyptians May Own Land in Sinai

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- In a move that appeared to be aimed at eliminating foreign influence in the Sinai Peninsula, Maj.-Gen. Abdallah Abdel Ghany said only Egyptian citizens with Egyptian parents will be able to own land in the Sinai Peninsula, a decision that represents a significant policy change.

In a briefing Tuesday to the Shura Council's Arab Affairs, Foreign Affairs and National Security Committee, Ghany also said Egypt would not accept "conditional" foreign aid to develop the Sinai, Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm reported. Though much of the Sinai is desert, there's a huge resort area at Sharm el-Sheikh.

Israel captured the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt during the Six Day War. Under the terms of the treaty, Israel agreed to withdraw its troops and civilians from the Sinai and Egypt agreed to leave the area demilitarized.

In the years following the 1979 peace treaty with Israel, Egyptians were not allowed to own land in the Sinai, but only to use it for specified periods of time.

That changed for the first time in January 2011 when social protests began in Cairo and Israel agreed to the deployment of several hundred Egyptian troops to the Sinai. The protests grew to an all-out revolution, culminating in the overthrow of the Mubarak regime.

In the year and a half that followed, the vast stretches of barren desert proved ideal cover for Islamist terror cells to train and develop. The relative quiet along the Israeli border that prevailed during Mubarak's reign began to change, with terrorists launching rockets into Israel and attempts at cross-border attacks.

Meanwhile, Egypt would like to reinvigorate the Red Sea resorts, a favorite vacation destination of Israelis and Europeans.

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