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Israel hints at war with Egypt over bridge to Saudi Arabia

February 17, 2014 at 1:50 am

Media reports claim that Israel and Jordan are against the project to build a bridge between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Israel is taking the issue so seriously that it has hinted that it may be “a direct cause of war” if it goes ahead.

The project was instigated by ousted president Hosni Mubarak years ago only to be shelved. It has been revived post-revolution.

Israel insists that a bridge over the islands of Tiran and Sanafir located at the entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba would pose a “strategic threat to Israel” as it puts the freedom of navigation to and from the Israeli port of Eilat “at risk”. Any closure of the gulf or threat thereto would, Israel has declared repeatedly, be “a direct cause of war”.

Hebrew Radio pointed out that the Camp David agreement between Israel and Egypt emphasises the right of freedom of navigation through the Strait of Tiran. “Article V says that ‘the Parties consider the Strait of Tiran and the Gulf of Aqaba to be international waterways open to all nations for unimpeded and non-suspendable [sic] freedom of navigation and overflight. The Parties will respect each other’s right to navigation and overflight for access to either country through the Strait of Tiran and the Gulf of Aqaba’.”

The 50-kilometre causeway and bridge between Egypt and Saudi Arabia will link Sharm el-Sheikh to Ras Hamid, near Tabuk. It is believed that the project will ease the travel to Hajj for tens of thousands of pilgrims every year.

Although Cairo and Riyadh claim that work on the project will commence later this year, according to the Israelis, “the project is still being studied by the two countries”.

While the economic and political benefits of such a link are acknowledged, concerns have been expressed about the possible effects on the marine environment and coral reefs in the Red Sea. Such damage could have a knock-on effect on tourism, something that is vital for the Egyptian economy.