550 Druze Syrians, living in the Israeli Occupied Syrian Golan Heights, have crossed the demarcation line at Quneitra, to make a five day visit to Damascus.
20,000 Syrians – mainly Druze – have been trapped in the Golan since the Israeli military illegally occupied the land in 1967. Families have been split in half, with almost no visits allowed by Israel, and no phone lines between the two areas. Residents use loudspeakers to shout across a valley, if they want to communicate with loved-ones.
This week marks the 14th annual crossing, and includes the largest number of people ever to be allowed through. It involved the co-operation of the Syrian and Israeli Interior Ministries, the Israeli Army, and the Red Cross.
The Red Cross deserves huge praise. It mediated between Syria and Israel (there was no direct communication), and provided transport for safe passage across the no-man’s land.
Some of the people who crossed had not seen their relatives for more than 40 years, because of the Israeli occupation.
The 550 people are visiting Damascus, to make a pilgrimage to the grave of the Druze prophet Habil, on Jebl Qasioun.
It annoys me when people say these Druze have crossed “into Syria”. They live IN Syria – but in the Occupied segment. To say they are crossing “into” Syria implies that the Golan is not Syria, and therefore legitimises the Israeli occupation.
Also, they are not crossing a “border” (as I wrote in my headline), but a “demarcation line”. You can not have a border between the Syrian Golan Heights and the rest of Syria.