A group of Egyptian soldiers celebrate triumph over Israel in Sinai in 1973 - archive photo
CAIRO – 25 April 2018: Over the past 36 years, Egyptians were circulating stories about the liberation of the land of Sinai from Israeli occupation which continue to inspire consecutive generations. However, most millennials are not connected with this occasion that shaped much of who Egyptians are now.
Egypt Today asked random Egyptian youth how they see the Sinai Liberation Day and what it represents for them.
Many youth remember spending hours during their childhood on making drawings or writing essays about the 6th of October War for class, and these were only done for the sake of receiving high school grades. We can say that there was a lack of awareness among young people about the real incidents of the occasion and how they affected their country.
Ayman Youssef, 26, was one of those Egyptians who did not witness the liberation operation of Sinai. He said: "Growing up in school, April 25 was not a significant event. For me it was just a holiday, but as I grew up I started to understand more about the liberation war."
He further explained that his generation "learned that this holiday has more political meanings than its significance as a war."
Youssef noted that many youth know very little about the War of Attrition which was the real beginning and the most important step towards the Sinai Liberation. "I would prefer that we celebrate the War of Attrition rather than the Sinai Liberation Day."
Eslam Daif, 31, also reflected on the occasion and recalled his childhood memories about it. He said: "We all knew about the Sinai Liberation in school, but we did not realize how it happened."
"I remember that I once visited Sinai with my colleagues in a school trip. During the visit, we made a short tour in the Suez Canal and the ruins of the Bar Lev Line which was destroyed by the Egyptian army during the October 6 War,” Daif recalled.
"It was astonishing to see the remains of Israeli military units and weapons after they were smashed during the great crossing of the Egyptian military over the Suez Canal and the seizure of the Israeli fortifications."
Aya Samir, 25, pointed out that many young Egyptians learned about the Sinai Liberation from the movies which were made during that era.
"Movies like, ‘Al-Rasasa la Tazalu fe Gaibi’ (The Bullet Is Still in My Pocket) which was produced in 1974 immediately following the war, were the main source of information about the event for most of Egyptians."
Samir added that "the Egyptian cinema almost formed the young people's awareness about the war and the liberation process. The movies made then used identical archived scenes of the war that could deliver the wide image of the event without going deep in the incidents of the liberation operation."
However, Samir referred that our generation has to expend more efforts in searching and reading about the Sinai Liberation to realize the real value of Egyptians' sacrifices in that time as well as the peace negotiations that followed the war.
Another war in Sinai
As Egypt celebrates the completion of the withdrawal of all Israeli military forces from Sinai in 1982, the Egyptian military is still waging a harsh war in the peninsula against terrorist groups that plagued this area in the last few years, leaving hundreds of victims among both civilians and military men.
The Sinai insurgency initially consisted of separate militants who exploited the chaotic situation in Egypt following the January 25 Revolution and launched a series of attacks on government forces in Sinai. Since 2014, terrorist attacks started to take the shape of regular and organized operations. The most dangerous terrorist group, Ansar Bait Al-Maqdis (ABM), pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) threatening of more raucous attacks.
Militants and the security forces have been caught in a crossfire that led to the killing of hundreds from both camps. The state has been attempting to regain control over the afflicted North Sinai which has also been widely targeted in the past period.
Egypt launched several military operations, including Operation Eagle in mid-2011, Operation Sinai in mid-2012, Operation Martyr's Right in 2015 and Comprehensive Operation Sinai in February 2018 thus far. The ongoing operation was considered to be the largest military action in the Sinai Peninsula in years.
According to the army, the military’s Martyr's Right operation resulted in the death of about 500 militants and destroyed hundreds of hideouts and vehicles used by terrorists since its beginning in September 2015. The army’s strategy to face terrorism was based on three stages. The first depended on monitoring terrorism’s regional and international networks that provide logistical and financial support to terrorists in the country.
The second stage was based on the execution of military sweeping operations in cooperation with police forces and the residents of the Sinai Peninsula, aiming to achieve full elimination of the terrorists’ presence. The third stage sought to launch comprehensive development projects to improve the living status of the residents in Sinai.
On Nov. 24, 2017, Egyptians were shocked with the bloody terrorist attack that hit the main mosque in North Sinai’s Al-Rawdah Village. It took the lives of 311 people, roughly 22 percent of the village’s male residents, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics’ (CAPMAS) 2016 report.
In February, army spokesman Colonel Tamer el-Refae announced in a strongly worded televised statement that the military and police forces have initiated the "Sinai 2018" operation.
It involved land, naval and air forces, as well as the police and border guards, targeting "terrorist and criminal elements and organizations" in northern and central Sinai, as well as parts of the Nile Delta and the Western Desert along the porous border with Libya, strongholds of a persistent Islamic State (IS) group insurgency that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and police.
President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi said he is following with pride the heroics of the army and police in the "Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018." In a post on his official Facebook page, he said, "I follow with pride the heroics of my sons from the Armed Forces and the Police to purge the beloved land of Egypt from terrorists, the enemies of life. And always, long live Egypt."