Lebanese newspaper: Egypt 'deploys pilots to Syria'

Lebanese newspaper: Egypt 'deploys pilots to Syria'
Egypt has reportedly sent a military air support unit to Syria in preparation for a large deployment early next year, claimed a report by Lebanese pro-Syrian regime daily
2 min read
24 November, 2016
Ties between Egypt and Saudi Arabia have cooled amid disagreements over Syria [Getty]
Egypt has sent a military air support unit to Syria in preparation for a large deployment early next year, pro-Syrian regime Lebanese daily As-Safir has reported.

The report comes days after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi expressed support for the regime's military.

"Well-informed Arab sources" told the newspaper on Thursday that the Egyptian army sent a unit made up of 18 helicopter pilots to Hama airbase on 12 November, however, they said it was "unclear whether they have begun taking part in aerial operations".

After five years of civil war, the Syrian army has only 50 Russian-made Mil Mi-8 helicopters still in operation - half of its original supply - whereas Egypt has 60 of the aircraft, according to As-Safir.

A source "close to the Syria file" told the newspaper that a large deployment of Egyptian troops will arrive in Syria in late January to take part in military operations "not limited to air support at Hama airbase".

Last month, Syrian security services chief Ali Mamlouk met with Egyptian officials in his first public foreign visit in five years to discuss Egypt publicly backing the embattled Syrian regime.

An Egyptian political source at the time told a The New Arab correspondent that the officials discussed Sisi taking a stronger public stance in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

On Tuesday, Sisi said that he supports the Syrian regime's military in its war against "terrorists", a position at odds with his country's Gulf benefactors especially Saudi Arabia.

"Our priority is to support national armies, for example in Libya to assert control over Libyan territories and deal with extremist elements. The same with Syria and Iraq," he said.

Sisi's government had been supported by billions of dollars in aid from Saudi Arabia, but ties appear to have cooled between the two countries amid disagreements over Syria.