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Tuesday, 13 June, 2000, 02:47 GMT 03:47 UK
Golan Syrians bid farewell
druz arabs trying to get across the border
Druz Arabs were refused permission to cross the border
By Hilary Andersson in the Golan Heights

The Syrians who live on Israeli-controlled land have been desperate to cross the border to attend President Assad's funeral.

But the border has never been open and on Monday even those with special permission were not allowed through.

The Syrians living in the Golan Heights, which was captured by Israel from Syria in 1967, saw President Assad as the embodiment of the nation they still call home.
syrian boys
Syrians in the Israeli occupied region are mourning the president's death

They are mourning his death but in the Golan Heights they are alone.

Seventeen thousand Jewish settlers also live there - and some saw President Assad as a hostile dictator who did not want peace.

Golan agreement

Israeli Leor Zuaaretz, who has lived in the Golan Heights for 22 years, says she is not prepared to give up her home for a deal with Syria.

She is glad President Assad is dead. She saw him as inflexible in his demand for all the land, but says his son Bashar is a different matter.

"I won't want to give up the Golan but I do want peace so maybe he's someone we can negotiate with.

"I'd be prepared to leave maybe if it was a man who wanted real peace," she said.

An agreement over the Golan is very close - the Israelis have hinted they will give up most of it.

But President Assad wanted every inch and he goes to grave with his principles.

Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Barak has promised peace in the region - he has staked his whole career on it.

"We're watching Syria - its up to them now," he said - careful to give them room to manoeuvre.

But it is hard to disguise the optimistic mood here - even from the prime minister - at a time when much of the region is in mourning.

An era in the Middle East draws to a close - a period of hostility, and war.

In Israel there are hopes a new era will bring real opportunities for peace.

See also:

12 Jun 00 | Media reports
12 Jun 00 | Middle East
12 Jun 00 | Middle East
11 Jun 00 | Middle East
12 Jun 00 | Middle East
10 Jun 00 | Middle East
11 Jun 00 | Media reports
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