BEIRUT: Syrian government 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 government 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.