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Abu-Ageila is a strategically important road junction and dam in the north of the Sinai peninsula, approximately 45 km southeast of El Arish. It was the site of major battles in the 1948, 1956 and 1967 wars between Israel and Egypt (See Battle of Abu-Ageila). The adjacent location Umm Katef was another key Egyptian position in the Abu-Ageila battles.

According to a recent biography of Ariel Sharon by David Landau, in preparation for an attack on the Suez Canal were war to break out between Israel and Egypt, Sharon ordered the secret expulsion of 3,000 Bedouin from this area in late January 1972 to clear the way for a military exercise code-named Oz (valour). No warning was given, the expulsion order was executed during the onset of freezing temperatures in the desert, and no time was allowed for the Bedouin, the 'Azazme kin to the Tarabin in El-Arish, to collect their belongings. As a result, some forty died, predominantly children, babies and old people, as they were forced to relocate at Jabel Khalal mountain. Israeli IDF members associated with the expulsion said later that Sharon probably intended used the land for an Israeli settlement. Lt. Gen. David Elazar later ordered that the Bedouin be allowed to return.