JERUSALEM, Israel -- Egyptian forces appear to be cracking down in earnest on Islamist terror cells in the Sinai Desert and in the process, hampering Hamas, the Palestinian faction ruling the Gaza Strip. And they're doing so with Israel's blessing.
On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved Egypt's deployment of two more infantry battalions to supplement the forces battling the terror cells.
Apache helicopter gunships are also flying over the vast desert for the first time since Israel and Egypt made peace with one another more than 33 years ago.
The 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty stipulates that the Sinai would be demilitarized, which is why Israel has to agree to the deployment of military forces.
In the two years since the overthrow of former President Hosni Mubarak, terror cells in the Sinai have flourished. The ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi further emboldened the jihadists.
In the past several days, Egyptian security forces have continued to seal smuggling tunnels, effectively shutting down much of the traffic between the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Desert.
Hamas uses the tunnels to smuggle weapons, cash, fuel, and people between Gaza and Egypt.
Israel destroyed many of the tunnels during two military incursions into the Gaza Strip in 2010 and 2013. Hamas usually manages to rebuild most of them. Estimates have varied over the years as to the number of working smuggling tunnels.
According to Israeli media, smuggling in more than 200 operating tunnels has pretty much come to a stop, affecting Gaza residents and cutting off supplies to Islamist terror cells operating in the Sinai.