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."

 

‘Intense awareness of interests’ but no ‘perfect agreement between Egypt and US

UAE prosecutor refers 41 people to trial on terrorism charges

'PKK suicide attack' kills two soldiers in eastern Turkey

Israel faces mounting pressure after baby killing in arson attack

Iraq TV comedian combats jihadists with laughs

Kerry to Middle East allies: Iran deal will make region safer

Egypt court again postpones verdict in retrial of Jazeera reporters

Al-Nusra Front releases video to show ‘capture’ of US-trained rebels

Egypt court postpones verdict on brother of Ayman al-Zawahiri

Immigration surpasses economy as major concern in Europe

Plane crash kills family members of Bin Laden

Iraq protesters vent anger over poor services

ISIS flexes muscles in eastern Libya

Syria army pushes back rebels near Latakia province

Arbil urges PKK to move out of Iraq Kurdistan

Yemen government returns to Aden with eyes set on Sanaa

Erdogan calls for early elections if no coalition

Palestinian baby killed in arson attack by Jewish settlers

Kurds in Diyarbakir fear return to war

State of emergency in Tunisia extended

Jerusalem Gay Pride attack suspect lashes out in court

'Kurdish Obama' faces his biggest test

Yemen blockade 'killing' as many civilians as war

EU urges Israel to show 'zero tolerance for settler violence'

Cash-strapped Tunisia's Syphax airline grounds flights

Pentagon denies US-trained rebels captured in Syria

Morocco king calls for development of remote regions

Host of US celebrities endorses Iran nuclear deal

PKK braces for fight with Turkey in Iraq mountain bastions

Kurdish party chief dismisses Turkey anti-IS raids

Thomas Cook warns Tunisia attacks affect annual results

Three Al-Jazeera journalists await Egypt retrial verdict

Kuwait uncovers new IS cell

One Turkish police killed in attack blamed on PKK

Israel approves law allowing force feeding of prisoners

New sexist gaffe of Turkish deputy PM: 'As a woman, be quiet!

UN envoy invites Syrians to ‘thematic’ talks

Egypt's gift to the world: Suez Canal Axis

Pentagon to worried lawmakers: We will remain vigilant on Iran

Hamas calls for revolt against Palestinian Authority

ISIS claims deadly car bomb in Yemen capital

Allies tolerate Turkey's double game to boost IS fight

Somalia ‘making progress’ despite insecurity and election delay

Germany, Iraqi Kurds say Turkey should resume peace process

Syria skeptical about Turkey's intentions in fight against ISIS