A radical Egyptian group on Wednesday plans to deface an IDF memorial in Sinai, painting it the colors of the Egyptian flag. The memorial was set up about 40 years ago in memory of ten IDF soldiers killed in a helicopter crash, and according to the Camp David Accords, Egypt is committed to preserving and protecting the memorial – which they have done until now.
But given the recent tension in Sinai, including the numerous terrorist attacks and Grad rocket fire on Eilat emanating from the region, as well as the rise of the new radical Islamic government in Egypt, Israeli officials are very concerned that Egypt will allow the group to carry out its plan.
The memorial commemorates the death of ten IDF soldiers killed in a helicopter crash in northwestern Sinai, near the site of the former Yamit settlements, which Israel abandoned in 1979 after withdrawing from Sinai. The ten were killed in July 1971.
The memorial, with the names of the victims inscribed, is made of red granite that was cut in the area of Mount Sinai (Santa Katarina). The imposing memorial is ten meters (about 30 feet) tall and weighs 120 tons.
The memorial was designed by Mordechai Kafri, who designed some 50 memorials for IDF soldiers and Israeli personalities. Israel considered moving the memorial when the Camp David Accords were signed, but it was decided to leave it in place. Egypt committed to preserve the site, and according to the Israel-Egypt peace treaties, Israelis have the right to visit the site.
Wednesday marks Memorial Day for fallen IDF soldiers in Israel – and it also marks 30 years to the day since Israeli officially left Sinai.
As such, the Egyptian group said, it was a most appropriate day to rid the peninsula of the last “presence of foul Zionism,” the group's leader, Mohammed Hindi, said in an interview. “We have tried to destroy this memorial in the past, but the army protected it and stopped us. Now we have decided to paint it with the colors of the Egyptian flag. Egypt is an Islamic and Arab state, not a Zionist state. We do not have any agreements with them, and there is no peace.”
Rachel Kafri, widow of designer Mordechai Kafri, said that she and families of the fallen soldiers would sue Egypt in international courts if the memorial was defaced. In an interview, she said that her husband invested a great deal of effort in designing the memorial.