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