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Egypt protects IDF memorial in Sinai from vandals
By OREN KESSLER
04/27/2012
Youth ‘revolutionaries’ stage small rally at El-Arish site to mark Sinai Liberation Day.
 
Egyptian security forces prevented would-be vandals from defacing an IDF memorial in Sinai on Wednesday, the day Egyptians mark Sinai Liberation Day to commemorate 30 years since the final Israeli pullout from the peninsula.

The Egyptian newspaper Al-Youm Al-Sabaa reported that a group of local self-styled “revolutionaries” planned to paint the Egyptian tricolor on one side of the memorial stone and a map of pre-1948 Palestine on the other. They also reportedly planned to paint over the names etched into the rock of fallen Israeli servicemen.

Egyptian security forces surrounded the memorial with barbed wire and deployed armored vehicles around its perimeter in anticipation of attempts at vandalism.

The troops ultimately allowed in a small number of youth activists to rally at the site. A spokesman for the tribes of northern Sinai said they slapped their shoes against the stone “as an expression of our rejection of the monument’s existence.”

“The people of Sinai do not want any memory of the Zionist entity in their land,” he told the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat.

The red granite memorial lies in northern Sinai, near the town of El-Arish on the shores of the Mediterranean. It commemorates a helicopter accident in 1971 – four years after Sinai came under Israeli control – in which 10 IDF soldiers were killed.

The 1979 peace treaty with Egypt stipulates that Cairo will protect the memorial, commonly known in Egypt as “Dayan’s Rock,” for then defense minister Moshe Dayan.

As part of celebrations for Sinai Liberation Day, Egypt’s army announced Wednesday it would invest 400 million Egyptian pounds (NIS 248m.) in developing the northern Sinai. Al-Ahram newspaper reported the plan includes developing the port of El- Arish, repairing public utilities and building homes for Beduin.

The Sinai has grown increasingly lawless since president Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow 14 months ago, with crime, smuggling and terrorism on the rise and central government control at a minimum.

Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of Egypt’s ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, chose to mark Wednesday’s holiday by welcoming visiting dignitaries from Sinai rather than traveling to the area himself. Tantawi laid a wreath in Nasr City, a Cairo suburb, at Egypt’s tomb of the unknown soldier.

In remarks to Egyptian media, Tantawi called for the integration of Sinai into the broader Egyptian body politic, and said the peninsula should not be spoken of “as if it were not part of Egypt.”

Tantawi said Sinai holds a special place in his heart because its people gave him shelter after he came under attack during the Suez War.

“We went to Gaza in 1956 with a number of junior officers and we came under an Israeli attack. We called for rescue, but the Palestinians refused,” he said. “We were saved by the Sinai Beduin, who protected us until we could return to Cairo.”
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