Sunday, July 22, 2012

Tension with Syria on the Golan

Another not very calming article in Haaretz today. This one is about something that happened on the Israel-Syria border in the Golan last Thursday. 500 Syrian soldiers entered the demilitarized zone between the Israeli and Syrian lines on the Golan. They did this not to attack Israel, but in the course of fighting some of the Syrian rebels.

Syrian army forces crossed the demilitarized zone near the border with Israel in the Golan Heights last week, a highly unusual incident, on what is considered a quiet  border. 
Following the incident, in which 500 soldiers and 50 vehicles crossed into the demilitarized zone, Israel filed a formal complaint to the UN secretary general and to the president of the UN's Security Council, warning that the event may have serious ramifications.... 
The Syrian soldiers entered the demilitarized zone last Thursday. The Syrian forces entered the area near the Syrian village of Jubata Al Khashab, a few kilometers east of the Israeli Druze village of Mas'ada in the northern part of the Golan Heights. It seems that the soldiers' entrance to the demilitarized zone was a result of the fighting with the rebel army. 
On the same day, Barak was touring the border with Syria and observed clashes on the other side of the border. Barak, noting that the battle was being conducted at a distance of only "200 meters from UN forces and some 800 meters from the border fence," was not aware at the time that the Syrian soldiers had entered the demilitarized zone. 

Jubata Al Khashab is situated inside the demilitarized zone, between the Israeli lines on the west and the Syrian lines on the east. It is close to Mas'ada inside the Golan Heights. When I visited the Golan last summer with friends, we drove through Mas'ada. This is a photo of some men walking along the road in Mas'ada.

The demilitarized zone in the Golan Heights is defined in the separation of forces agreement signed by Israel and Syria in 1974. The accord defined a 3-6 kilometer zone which would be demilitarized by Israeli and Syrian forces, and would be under the supervision of a UN military force and Syrian civilian authority. The UN peacekeeping force – UNDOF – includes some 1,000 soldiers, sent from Canada, Poland, Finland and Austria, who are monitoring the keeping of the agreement.
When I was visiting Israel in the summer of 2007, I also visited the Golan, and we drove along a road close to the border, and stopped at a lookout point near Quneitra, which is a ruin now in the Syrian controlled part of the Golan. I'm not sure exactly what these are photographs of, whether of Quneitra or other villages.

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