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Planned Israeli festivals in Egypt’s Sinai spark outrage

Israeli-organised twin dance festivals in the Sinai have sparked outrage in Egypt as they come just days before the anniversary of the end of the Jewish state’s occupation of the peninsula.

The Nabia and Grounded festivals, which coincide with the Jewish Passover holiday, also come as Muslims observe a daytime fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

The festivals follow events in which dozens of Palestinian worshippers were injured by Israeli forces, who attacked the Al-Aqsa mosque and compound in Jerusalem over the weekend.

The Egyptian branch of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which opposes Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories, has called for a boycott of the festival’s venues.

“As we do every year, we were preparing to celebrate… the stories of the heroic resistance but we discovered that the Zionist occupation was returning to the Sinai,” the branch said in a statement on Wednesday.

The Nabia festival is due to run from April 17 to 20; the Grounded festival runs from April 20 to 23. Both offer all-night dancing with an international lineup of artists.

April 25 is the anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from most of the Sinai in 1982 under a landmark 1979 peace agreement, ending an occupation that began during the Six-Day War of 1967.

Egyptian Facebook user Farah Mourad complained that the festivals are taking place ahead of “Sinai Liberation Day… and during the holy month of Ramadan”.

She also pointed to the recent violence on the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, saying Israeli forces had attacked Palestinian civilians.

The music scene has become a major draw for Israeli tourists visiting the south coast of the Sinai Peninsula, along with its beaches, dive sites and low costs compared to Israel.

In 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic hit international travel, more than 700,000 Israelis visited Egypt, according to the embassy in Cairo, the great majority of them heading to the relative security of southern Sinai.

Direct flights between Tel Aviv and the Sinai resort of Sharm El-Sheikh resumed on Sunday, making the region’s resorts even more attractive to Israelis.

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