Golan Druze march for Syrian independence day

Druze in Israel's Golan say they support Syrian President Assad, want to rejoin Syria .


Druze in Majdal Shams, Israel, demonstrate in support of their brethren in Syria
Druze in Majdal Shams, Israel, demonstrate in support of their brethren in Syria
Flash 90

Hundreds of Druze in the Golan Heights marched Monday for Syrian independence day, carrying portraits of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and chanting anti-Israel slogans.

"God save Syria!" they shouted as they rallied in the town of Masada. "Down with the occupation!"

According to Israeli officials, about 20,000 Druze gathered on the strategic plateau conquered by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War.

The vast majority of Golan Druze have retained Syrian nationality.

The civil war which has ravaged their homeland for the past six years is reflected in local divisions, with Masada opponents of the Assad regime refusing to march behind his picture.

But both sides are united in their opposition to Israel, residents told AFP.

"We retain our Syrian identity and follow the path of national resistance," said Nasser Ibrahim, one of the organizers of Monday's march.

"With the crisis in Syria, Israel has increased its measures on the Golan," said Assad opponent Ayman Abu Jabal, referring to what he called "Israeli-ordered changes" to the Golan school curriculum.

Israel and Syria are still officially in a state of war, but Israel has no wish to get involved in the fighting.

Israel does, however, strike Hezbollah, which fights for al-Assad in Syria.

Last month, Israel struck Hezbollah targets in Syria, drawing Syrian anti-aircraft missile fire in the worst flare-up between the two governments since the Syrian civil war began in 2011.

Contrary to the slogans shouted on Monday, most Syrians do not want al-Assad as their leader. One refugee even said he was grateful to US President Donald Trump for striking Syria, and asked the world to help make Syria safe again.

The Druze in the Golan, like all other citizens of Israel, enjoy full democratic rights, no discrimination, and all the amenities of a modern Western country.

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