JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel has allowed Egypt to boost its forces in the Sinai peninsula after Cairo requested additional troops to fight Islamist militants in the lawless region, Israel's defense minister said on Tuesday.
Sinai is largely demilitarized, in accordance with a 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace deal, but Egypt has been battling militants there who have stepped up attacks on security checkpoints since the army ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi two weeks ago.
"There was a request from Egypt, a number of requests lately, for us to allow them to send more forces to handle the matter," Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon told reporters.
"As long as they are using those forces to fight terror, and they do so according to requests from us, and they do not violate the peace treaty... we are certainly allowing them to deal with and fight the challenges the Islamists pose in Sinai."
"The moment they finish that mission, of course, the situation will return to how it was," Yaalon added.
Egyptian army sources have said an offensive in the Sinai against hardline Islamist militants may be imminent, though the military is now heavily focused on maintaining order in the streets of Cairo and other cities, where its armored personnel carriers and some tanks are deployed.
(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch, editing by Gareth Jones)