First Published: 2011-05-17

 

'They crossed minefields,' Golan residents marvel

 

In occupied Golan, many residents welcome pro-Palestinian protesters as they cross into Heights.

 

Middle East Online

By Majeda El Batsh - MAJDAL SHAMS

'The youths were brave'

Salman Fakhreddine watched in astonishment as Syrian protesters mourning the creation of the state of Israel ran across the heavily-mined border with the Golan Heights.

"When the youths began crossing the minefield, my heart was trembling with fear because at any moment a mine could have exploded," he said on Monday, a day after bloody clashes between Israeli troops and protesters.

Thousands of demonstrators had gathered along Israel's northern border with Lebanon and Syria, waving Palestinian flags, to mark the anniversary of Israel's creation, which they call the "Nakba," or "catastrophe."

On the Syrian side, police were deployed to try to stop the first wave of protesters, but they were quickly overwhelmed when a second group arrived. On the Israeli side, Fakhreddine said, troops were similarly unprepared.

"There was just one Israeli patrol, which called for back-up and then opened fire on the youths," he said.

Syrian medical sources said four people were killed in the incident and hundreds were wounded.

On the Lebanese side of the border, 10 people were killed by Israel for attempting to break the boundary fence, medics said.

In Majdal Shams, the Golan's largest Druze town, many residents still hold Syrian citizenship and came out to welcome the protesters as they crossed.

"People from the village came running and heard the shots. The youths were brave. We welcomed them all and participated in their demonstrations and joined their chants," Fakhreddine said.

"One of them said he came from Safed, another from Tarshiha," added Fakhreddine, referring to places now occupied by Israel.

"When they came in, I imagined how the refugee families crossed the border, heavy with luggage, on a day like that day, but in the opposite direction."

Elsewhere in Majdal Shams, pizza seller Abdullah Rabah said the protesters had broken through fear of the minefield, in which two locals were killed in 1975.

"We've lived for 60 years with the myth of the minefield," he said.

"It was a surprise for us," added Aref Abu Jabal, a local leader. "No one saw them (the protesters) coming. The Israeli army wanted to arrest them, but we allowed them to leave in safety and with dignity."

Arab residents of the Golan, which Israel occupied in 1967 and later annexed, said they welcomed the protesters, offering them food and drink.

"The first guy I met was thirsty and asked for water. They came across the border without water to say that they want to return to their country and that they have no fear of death," said 29-year-old Nadine Safadi.

For Samih Ayub, watching Palestinian refugees pour over the border was a little like a dream, or even watching a film.

"The most important thing is that no one can stop the will of the masses and that what Arab armies have not been able to do, the Palestinians youths did."

 

US troops to return to Mideast

IS jihadists close in on Turkish border

Libya militants vow to continue ‘military operations’

Argentine President charges US could kill her

Syrian refugees try their luck in Latin America

Israel settlers forcefully occupy 25 homes in East Jerusalem

Gunmen wound Saudi policeman in Shiite village in Eastern Province

Erakat likens Netanyahu to leader of ‘Islamic State’

Voters to choose among 27 candidates in Tunisia presidential race

Iran offers military equipment to Lebanon army

Iran extends compulsory military service to 2 years

Frustration grows over Huthi occupation of Yemen capital

US-led air strikes pound ‘Islamic State’ near Syria border town

Britain plans action against extremism ‘in all its forms’

Vigilante groups terrorise Syria refugees in Lebanon

Kurd troops launch offensive on IS on three fronts

Balkans clamp down on jihadist recruitment

Indian PM warns US to repeat Iraq 'mistake' in Afghanistan

Israel PM warns Iran poses gravest threat to world

Kuwait strips 18 nationals of citizenship

Ahead of Tunisia elections, Ghannouchi appeals for US support

Israel deploys extra forces as two faiths mark major holy days

Egypt, Libya plunge in good governance rating

Saudi Arabia breaks silence on Huthi occupation of Yemen capital

Air strikes fail to halt advance of IS jihadists in Syria

Rival Libya factions meet for reconciliation talks

Iran-P5+1 nuclear talks ‘to resume’ by mid-October

HRW criticises human rights rollback under Erdogan

Syria's Nusra Front chief warns to transfer battle to West

Obama admits to making serious mistake: We underestimated ‘Islamic State’

Germany begins training Kurdish fighters from northern Iraq

Jordan takes ‘precautionary measures’ to secure borders

Egypt acquits 112 on charges of violating protest law

Shiite dissident dies in gun battle with Saudi security forces

Iraq forces repel IS attack on strategic town west of Baghdad

Russia raises suspicions about US ‘military interference’ in Syria

Yemen capital reels under control of Huthi rebels

Dubai Ruler: Victory over ‘Islamic State’ requires three bigger ingredients

Nusra Front threatens retaliation against coalition nations

Nusra Front urges Lebanon to negotiate for captive soldiers

Iran warns ‘Islamic State’: If you advance, we will attack!

Huthis settle score with Yemen national security apparatus

Egypt postpones verdict in murder case against Mubarak

US-led coalition expands campaign against ‘Islamic State’ in Syria

Yemen Shiite rebels urged to pull out of capital