Israeli Army Closes Off Golan Heights Border Area Amid Flare-ups With Syria

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

An Israeli tourist looks at the Syrian side of the border from Mount Bental, in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, a day after after projectiles fired from the war-torn country hit the Golan on June 25, 2017
JALAA MAREY/AFP

The Israeli army declared an area in the Golan Heights near the border with Syria a "closed military zone," prohibiting civilian access, following an upsurge in cross-border stray fire.

The area, opposite the Syrian town of Quneitra, will remain open to farm workers, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement on Monday.

There have been three incidents of errant fire hitting the Israeli Golan Heights over the last three days, 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.