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Situated between the two continents of Asia and Africa, and between two seas: the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. Triangular in shape, the Peninsula is 11,200 square miles. The coastal route which runs through the Sinai, by way of el-Arish to Gaza, is one of the oldest in history. The Egyptians and Assyrians used it in ancient times, the former establishing military outposts along it. Alexander the Great traveled it, and, in modern times, Napoleon used it on his march to Acre. During World War I, the British Army, under the command of General Allenby, reached Gaza through this road.

The Sinai Peninsula is mainly desert, sparsely settled by wandering Bedouins. Few permanent settlements exist because of the lack of rain and the shifting sand dunes. The largest town, El-Arish, has a population of 20,000, most of which engages in trade and agriculture. The Peninsula is rich in natural resources, which were already exploited by the ancient Pharaohs. Their limited exploitation today is due to poor means of communication and lack of water.

The Peninsula is famous because the Children of Israel traveled through it when they came out of Egypt and made their way to the Holy Land. “In the third month after the Children of Israel went out of the land of Egypt, the same day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. And when they were departed from Rephidim, and came to the wilderness of Sinai, they encamped in the wilderness, and there Israel encamped before the mount” (Ex. 19:1-2).

The location of Mount Sinai, also known as Horeb, is uncertain. According to Christian tradition, it lies close to the southern tip of the Peninsula, and its peak is known as Jebel Musa (Mountain of Moses). It is an awe-inspiring mountain, deserving the name of Mountain of God. Nearby is a place called Ein Musa, where, tradition has it, Moses watered Jethro’s flocks. However, the biblical account of the routes taken by the Children of Israel through the desert does not support the claim that Jebel Musa is Mount Sinai. According to it, it is reasonable to identify Mount Sinai with Jebel Hilal, in the vicinity of Kadesh Barnea, in the northern part of the Peninsula. Jebel Hilal is only 890 feet tall, but it dominates the whole area. This region was the scene of the battle between the Israelites and Amalek in ancient times, Here, also, in the vicinity of Abu Aweigila, a pitched battle took place between the Israeli and Egyptian forces in the course of the four-day 1956 Sinai campaign. This battle ended with the occupation of the whole Peninsula by the Israeli army. However, Israel was forced to return the Peninsula to Egypt. In 1967, Egypt used the Peninsula as a staging area for a planned fullscale invasion of Israel, and in the Six-Day War Israeli forces once again recaptured it. Following the Yom Kippur War, part of the Peninsula was returned to Egypt and the rest of the Peninsula was returned to Egypt under the peace agreement signed between Israel and Egypt on March 26, 1979.

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