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."

 

Supplies dwindle, strikes intensify in Syria's Aleppo

Morocco’s main secular party takes on ruling Islamists

Yemeni forces kill suspected Qaeda chief

Palestinians condemn Trump vow on Jerusalem

Famous archway collapses on Moroccan beach

Israel prosecutor general denies going easy on PM

Iran frees Iranian-Canadian academic

Rebels, civilians quit Homs under deal with regime

Oman court closes national newspaper, jails three journalists

Israel-US consortium signs $10 billion gas deal with Jordan

Closure of Palestinian pages sparks Facebook censorship fears

British FM on key visit to Turkey

Ten Turkish soldiers killed in PKK attacks

Jordanians protest over writer's murder

Moniz says Washington has met its side of Iran nuclear deal

Coalition prefers final Yemen settlement to 'short' truce

Deutsche Welle sues Turkey over confiscated interview

Iran conservatives advise Ahmadinejad to stay out of election

Moscow slams 'unacceptable' UN statements on Syria

Bulgaria court error delays trial over Hezbollah bombing

Oil prices rise modestly ahead of OPEC meeting

Qatari official banned from AFC vote

Trump says he'll recognize Jerusalem as Israel's 'undivided' capital

US, Russia split on Syria’s Aleppo carnage

Death toll from Egypt migrant shipwreck jumps to 168

Warplanes pound Aleppo ahead of UN Syria meeting

Dubai drops charges against Briton who promoted charity

Israel sentences Islamic cleric for incitement

Turkey sets precondition for joining US Raqa operation

Campaigning for parliamentary polls begins in Morocco

EU mission to train Libya coastguard faces delay

Gunman kills prominent writer on steps of courthouse in Jordan

Mosul offensive to start in ‘next few weeks’

New wave of air strikes pummels Aleppo

US, Russia trade blame for collapse of ceasefire in Syria

Hadi vows to ‘extract Yemen from claws of Iran’

Obama vetoes bill allowing 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia

Morocco asks to rejoin African Union

Air raids pound rebel-held Aleppo

Turkey arrests prominent writer brothers

Egypt shipwreck death toll rises to 133

Gulen says will return to Turkey if US backs extradition

Occupation troops shoot, wound Palestinian with knife

UN eyes alternate aid delivery route for Syria's Aleppo

Iran condemns Saudi strikes in Yemen