Syria regime 'raises flag' on frontier with Israel-occupied Golan

Syria regime raises flag on frontier with Israel-occupied Golan, monitor reports
3 min read
26 July, 2018
The Assad regime has been fighting for over a month to capture the country's south, which borders both the Israeli-occupied Golan and Jordan.
Syrian army soldiers retaking their position on the Syrian-Israeli border on Thursday [Getty]

Syrian regime forces raised the country's two-star flag on the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Thursday, a monitor said, four years since they were last deployed there.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said regime forces had entered the buffer zone separating Syrian territory from the Israeli-annexed Golan and hoisted the flag there.

"Regime forces pulled up the Syrian flag over the Quneitra crossing, the main border point with the occupied Golan, around four years after losing control of the area," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman. 

He said regime fighters and police units entered the destroyed city of Quneitra, which lies in the buffer zone, after hardline fighters quit the area.

Al-Watan, a pro-regime newspaper, reported on Thursday that "army troops raised the Syrian flag above the Quneitra crossing, a few dozen metres from enemy Israeli troops". 

Israel seized 1,200 square kilometers (460 square miles) of the Golan during the Six-Day War of 1967, then annexed it in 1981 in a move never recognised internationally.

Some 510 square kilometers of the Golan remain on the Syrian side of the ceasefire line, with United Nations peacekeeping forces overseeing the buffer in between. 

Syrian state news agency SANA said "army units deployed at the Flag Roundabout and inside the liberated city of Quneitra, after the end of the terrorist presence there."

Fighters from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an alliance led by a former al-Qaeda affiliate, had held Quneitra city and the adjacent frontier with the buffer zone, which has remained sealed for decades. 

They were bussed out of the area on Saturday to Syria's northwestern Idlib province, after rejecting a Russian-brokered deal to hand over territory to the regime.

Backed by Moscow, the Assad regime has been fighting for over a month to capture the country's south, which borders both the Israeli-occupied Golan and Jordan. 

It has captured nearly all of the border with Jordan, including the key Nassib crossing, and now holds nearly the full length of the frontier with the Golan buffer zone. 

"There is just a small part of Quneitra left which will soon fall under a surrender deal," said Abdel Rahman. 

"After that, the regime will have complete control of the province of Quneitra and the line dividing it from the Israeli-occupied Golan."

The Syrian conflict began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by Assad family, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms, triggering an armed rebellion fuelled by mass defections from the Syrian army.

According to independent assessments, brutal tactics pursued mainly by the Russian-backed regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians, amount to war crimes.