'It was always my dream to reach Jaffa', Syrian infiltrator says
Hassan Hijazi, 28, surrenders to police a day after he pushed through Syrian border, and then hitch-hiked and took a public bus to Jaffa in search of what he says is his parents' former house.
A man identifying himself as a Syrian civil servant said on Monday he hitch-hiked and rode a bus alongside Israeli soldiers to Tel Aviv after pushing through an Israeli frontier fence with Palestinian demonstrators.
"It was my dream to reach Jaffa," Hassan Hijazi, 28, said on Channel 10 TV, from the biblical city now a section of Israel's commercial hub, 130 miles from the Golan Heights where he had penetrated from Syria on Sunday.
Hijazi, who later surrendered to Israeli police who said he was being questioned, was among dozens who penetrated Israeli-held territory in a protest marking Israel's founding, a day mourned by Palestinians as a "nakba" or catastrophe.
Similar protests were staged across the Lebanese and Gaza borders with Israel, and deadly confrontations ensued with Israeli forces in which 13 people were killed.
Many of those who broke through a fence in the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed in a move not recognized internationally, had already been apprehended.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that in addition to Hijazi who has turned himself in, three more Syrian nationals were arrested on Monday in the vicinity of Majdel Shams, the Golan Heights frontier village near where most had infiltrated.
The channel said that Hijazi had gone to Jaffa in search of what had been his parents' home before they joined the ranks of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to flee or be driven away during a war over Israel's founding in 1948.
He told of how after hitch-hiking in a minivan, he had also taken a public bus to the Israeli city, alongside uniformed Israeli combat soldiers.
Asked about Israel's objections to seeing Palestinian refugees and their offspring, who now number in the millions, returning to former homes, Hijazi replied: "I imagine there are many Palestinians who don't want to come back here, just like there are many Jews who also don't want to stay."