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Netanyahu says will 'defend ourselves' after Sinai airstrikes report

Israel has carried out dozens of airstrikes against militants in Egypt's Sinai. [Getty]

Date of publication: 4 February, 2018

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Egypt has for two years been in a secret alliance with Israel, allowing Israeli drones to fly over the northern Sinai Peninsula conducting more than 100 covert airstrikes.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that Israel would "do whatever is necessary to defend ourselves" after a report that its' military has carried out dozens of airstrikes against militants in Egypt's Sinai.

Egypt has for two years been in a secret alliance with Israel, allowing Israeli drones to fly over the northern Sinai Peninsula conducting more than 100 covert airstrikes, according to a report in the New York Times.

Using unmarked drones, helicopters and jets, the strikes in northern Sinai just over the border with Israel have targeted militants linked with the Islamic State group.

Fearing backlash, both countries have tried to hide traces of Israeli airstrikes which are leaving Egypt increasingly dependent on Israel for its security, the NYT reported.

Read more: Egypt allowing Israel to conduct airstrikes in Sinai in 'secret alliance'

Netanyahu did not address the New York Times report published on Saturday, commenting only generally on Israel's stance. Israel's military also declined to comment.

Speaking at the start of a cabinet meeting, Netanyahu referred to recent meetings with US President Donald Trump, European leaders and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"As I also made it clear to President Trump and afterwards to European leaders and President Putin, our presence here is the main element in the Middle East blocking the spread of radical Islam, led by Iran and Islamic State, which also threaten all other elements in the world," he said. 

"We are not bent on war, but we will do whatever is necessary to defend ourselves."

IS-linked militants have waged a deadly insurgency in the Sinai against Egyptian security forces, and Israeli officials have watched the violence with concern.

Egypt and Jordan are the only two Arab nations with peace treaties with Israel, but relations remain sensitive.

While there have long been suggestions of behind-the-scenes military and intelligence cooperation between Egypt and Israel, officials from both countries rarely comment publicly on them.

Netanyahu has repeatedly spoken of improving ties with Arab nations in recent months without providing details, with many analysts saying their shared concern over Iran and IS militants has drawn them closer together.

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