Israeli Army Reopens Golan Heights Border Area, Closed After Flare-ups With Syria

Area opposite Syrian town of Quneitra was prohibited to civilians after three incidents of stray fire from Syrian war in as many days

Israeli soldiers patrol near the border with Syria after projectiles fired from the war-torn country hit the Israeli occupied Golan Heights on June 24, 2017.
JALAA MAREY/AFP

The Israeli army on Wednesday reopened a part of the Golan Heights near the Syrian border, a day after it had declared the area a "closed military zone," prohibiting civilian access.

The move to close off the area, opposite the Syrian town of Quneitra, followed an upsurge in cross-border stray fire.

There had been three incidents of errant fire hitting the Israeli Golan Heights in the beginning of the week, a result of fierce fighting between Syrian government troops and rebels in Quneitra.

The IDF has responded with force, carrying out airstrikes and artillery barrages against the Syrian army across the border. In statements, the IDF said it considers the Syrian army responsible for any breach of Israeli sovereignty and threats to the security of its citizens.

Despite the risk, hikers have been flocking to the Golan Heights, many of them hoping to catch a glimpse of the war across the border. On Tuesday, an observation point overlooking Quneitra was bustling with tourists, both locals and foreigners.

"There's cherry tourism, and there's war tourism," Keren Tenenbaum, who owns a convenience store in the area, summed it up. Ofir Puni, who works at a falafel stand nearby, said that the window panes in his shop were shaking from the shockwaves of blasts across the border. He noted that there were many tourists on Tuesday.

"For them it's an attraction, for us it's routine," he said.