the damaged church in Al Quneitra, with another collapsed building in front

The main target today is Al Quneitra, the main town on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. But first we drive all the way to the end, to the village of Ain Altinah – the end of the Syrian part of the Golan Heights; that is, the Israeli-administered part is across from a 200 meter wide, apparently heavily mined zone, bordered by some major fences. This situation is the result of the various wars between Syria and Israel, in 1967, when Israel occupied a very large part of the Golan Heights, and 1974, after which Israel withdraw from a portion of its occupied area and Syria got part of it back. We can see the other side  Majdal Shams, see the people walking there, it is really close. And really weird. Weirdest, though, is that we observe this from a purpose-built platform, I suppose where people come – local tourists – to look at the other side. Whilst, in all honesty, there isn’t a lot to see. Indeed, there is nobody else but us; our guide claims that we are the first foreign group to reach here in many years, as the place is usually out of bounds for foreigners.

 

watch tower, unmanned at the moment, along the de-facto border

the lively Israeli town, Majdal Shams, across the border

the double fence at the end of a mine field, that forms the border zone

the purpose-built viewing platform from which to look at waht was once Syrian territory

there is is, from inside the platform: Majdal Shams, the occupied part of Syria

everywhere in Al Quneitra are the remnants of destroyed buildings, allegedly by Israeli forces between 1967 and 1974

the church door

and the inside of the church, little left

another collapsed building, earthquake-like

To show the world how savage Israel went about its business, the Syrian government has kept a large part of Al Quneitra, the town occupied by Israel and later vacated, unchanged, that is to say, all the war damage to houses, to a museum, to a church, is still as they found it when they returned after the 1974 agreement. And it is, indeed, impressive; it reminds me of Haiti after the earthquake of 2010, with lots of concrete slabs of houses collapsed. At the same time you wonder why it is so difficult to get a permit to visit this part of the country, if it is just to show what the enemy once did. Anyhow, I don’t know; perhaps this is also a kind of Gaza avant-la-letre. And in any case, I am pretty sure that in quite a lot of Syria nowadays there is equally, or worse, evidence, of the savagery of the Syrian government upon its own people.

we have lunch in a resort at an artificial lake in the Golan Heights, where sheep form the only other entertainment

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