Israel protests gunfire across Syria armistice line

Date: 06-27-05

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israel complained to UN peacekeepers that its troops in the occupied Golan Heights had come under fire from Syrian-controlled territory, but Damascus insisted it was just youngsters throwing firecrackers.

"Our soldiers on the Golan came under light weapons fire from Syrian territory without sustaining any casualties," an Israeli military source told AFP.

They were "carrying out maintenance work on the fence" erected on the armistice line, the source said.

"The Israel Defence Force did not return fire and exercised restraint. We lodged a protest with the United Nations."

But a Syrian official rejected the Israeli account. "It was just youngsters throwing firecrackers to mark the anniversary of the liberation of the town of Quneitra," the official told the state SANA news agency.

He was referring to the strategic plateau's main town which was returned to Syria under the 1974 armistice that ended hostilities in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war and visited by then president Hafez al-Assad on June 26 that year.

To this day, the town, which is hard by the armistice line, remains a shadow of its former self.

The rest of the Golan Heights, first seized by Israel in the 1967 war, was annexed in 1981 in a move that has never been recognized by the international community.

The strategic plateau has been patrolled since 1974 by a more than 1,000-strong UN Disengagement Observer Force charged with overseeing the armistice.



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