Israel Watches as Egypt Transfers Key Islands to Saudis

Israel’s watching this development carefully: Egypt relinquished control of two islands in the Straits of Tiran to Saudi Arabia. The move settles an Egyptian-Saudi maritime dispute and paves the way for the two countries to build a bridge linking Saudi Arabia to Sharm El-Sheikh, which is at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula.

It’s not clear what the transfer of the Tiran and Sanafir islands means for Israeli shipping and naval operations.

Saudi Arabia allowed Egypt to take control of the islands in 1950 and former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser blocked Israeli ships from crossing through the Straits of Tiran in May 1967. Israel used the blockade as one of its casus belli in launching a pre-emptive strike against Egypt in the Six-Day War. Israel occupied the islands from 1967 until the full implementation of the Camp David Accords – the Israel-Egypt peace treaty – in 1982.

Following the Israeli withdrawal from the islands, Egypt regained control. The Multinational Force Observers (MFO) – a US-led force established as a part of the Camp David Accords to monitor the Israel-Egypt peace agreement – set up an observation post on the island of Tiran in order to ensure the freedom of movement of Israeli vessels through the straits. The MFO still maintains presence on the island.

Straits of Tiran
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