Tales of war and heroism from Sinai
These tales that I heard from Sinai’s fighters force us to mull over them given the present situation in Sinai
“The distance between what’s true and false is four fingers, Imam Ali [Abi Taleb] said, placing his four fingers between the eye and ear, adding: ‘that which is seen by the eye is true and that which is heard by the ear is mostly wrong or false.’” Sheikh Hassan Khalaf, one of Sinai’s mujahedeen, used this quote as he spoke to me the heroic acts he saw during the October war and after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
The infantry martyr
Khalaf told me about a soldier, an infantry unit member who launched mortar bombs, and how he was martyred while retreating to a shelter during a troop withdrawal. He was buried 15 days later.
After the October War, Sinai’s men rushed to the military intelligence offices in Port Said, Ismailia, Suez and other areas where they formed work groups. Intelligence case files have documented this activity. Some of these citizens were trained on how to use wireless devices and operate beyond enemy lines. Some worked as messengers, some were trained on how to quickly launch rockets and some conducted interception operations beyond enemy lines for nothing in return.
Many died as martyrs; many others died in captivity. Sheikh Hassan Khalaf quoted a military leader as saying: "We had no satellites but we had honest eyes," referring to Sinai’s men. He quoted another leader as saying: “Thanks to Sinai’s sons, the enemies’ posts were like an open book to us [the armed forces], and if it hadn't been for this true information, the battle would’ve not been a success."
Sheikh Suleiman al-Maghnam, also a former fighter in Sinai, told me how a Bedouin woman hid a soldier from the enemy's warplanes. He also told me about his own contribution to helping the war effort by monitoring enemy activity for the Egyptian military.
The Sinai informer
Among the stories Sheikh Suleiman narrated to me was that of the Assaf Yaguri’s Armored Brigade. After the war erupted, Maghnam’s was tasked with monitoring the activity of Israeli tanks and armored vehicles, counting them and reporting his observations back to Egyptian Military Intelligence.
On Oct. 7, an armored brigade left the central security camp in Rafah, where a nationalist Bedouin worked. Sheikh Suleiman informed the military intelligence about the type of vehicles, their number, the direction they were headed and also specified the time they moved. He tracked them from one area to another. When the brigade arrived in Arish and then passed al-Midan town, he sent a telegram to intelligence with the details. He sent another telegram of the brigade passing al-Rawda. Sheikh Suleiman didn’t know he was tracking the Assaf Yaguri's armored brigade when it passed al-Kherba, a zone where civilians weren’t allowed. He was detained by brigade members.
These tales that I heard from Sinai’s fighters force us to pause for a bit, not to restore the memory of our victories but to mull over them given the present situation in Sinai. Sinai's sons have given so much to their country and they’re willing to give much more. The people of Sinai stand by their army once again to fight terrorism there and this is a new heroic act that we must add to their never-ending tales of heroism.
This article was first published in al-Jarida newspaper on Saturdya, Nov. 22, 2014.
Abdel Latif el-Menawy is an author, columnist and multimedia journalist who has covered conflicts around the world. He is the author of “Tahrir: the last 18 days of Mubarak,” a book he wrote as an eyewitness to events during the 18 days before the stepping down of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Menawy’s most recent public position was head of Egypt’s News Center. He is a member of the National Union of Journalists in the United Kingdom, and the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate. He can be found on Twitter @ALMenawy