My Mideast Punchlines: in the footsteps of Arik…

Much has been written and broadcast in the last couple of days about the late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The eulogies ranged from hero worship to condemnatory. As might have been expected, the BBC and CNN tended to highlight the negative aspects of Sharon’s career.

I never actually met him, but I did follow in his footsteps in the 1973 Yom Kippur war. I was one of the first journalists to reach the ceasefire line at Km 101 (the distance from that line to Cairo). To do so meant crossing the bridgehead that Sharon had forged across the Suez Canal. The man’s nickname was “the bulldozer”, and after the bloody battle of the so-called Chinese Farm,  Sharon and his colleagues surrounded the Egyptian Third Army and were preparing to annihilate it until US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger stepped in to force a halt to the hostilities. You can look up more information about the battle of Chinese Farm and Sharon’s bridgehead on Wikipedia

It was a traumatic war for Israelis. I had five brothers-in-law fighting in it. For one of them, Avner, it was particularly harrowing. A veteran of hand-to-hand fighting with the Jordanians at the battle of Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-day War, Avner (an unassuming bank clerk in civvy street) was fighting as a paratrooper against the Egyptians in the southern theatre of the war. He was riding in a half track that was hit by an anti-tank missile. The missile blew apart his commander who was standing in front of him. The bottom half of the body fell on Avner, who was only one of two men to survive the incident. Israel owes its existence to men such as these.

On a somewhat lighter matter, the Egyptian government is planning to undermine Hamas in Gaza. My former employer, Reuters, reported that the Egyptian leadership sees Hamas as a national security threat. The aim, which officials say could take years to pull off, includes working with Hamas’s political rivals Fatah and supporting popular anti-Hamas activities in Gaza.

Small FistYet another smack in the eye for Hamas’s partner in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood. But then what could they have expected now that their nemesis, General al-Sisi, is in power. Ironically, the only thing that is keeping Gaza afloat economically is the Israeli aid that pours into that benighted coastal strip. So what happened next? The Jewish state got a few more rockets fired at it. Now there’s gratitude for you.




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