The Israelis are preparing to leave Kuneitra, the strategically and psychologically important Syrian city which Israel captured during the 1967 war.
The Israelis are preparing to leave Kuneitra, the strategically and psychologically important Syrian city which Israel captured during the 1967 war. The city is to be returned to the Syrians as part of the disengagement agreement signed on May 31st.
United Nations troops have begun moving into Kuneitra which has been reduced to rubble in the almost constant bombardment it has suffered during and since the October fighting. Before they leave, the Israelis are making sure that no ready-made fortifications survive and bulldozers have been clearing away what were once bomb shelters - many of them inherited from the Syrians.
About 70,000 former residents are expected to return to Kuneitra. The city itself will be returned to a Syrian civil administration although it lies within the buffer zone created by the disengagement agreement.
The Israelis have been erecting barb-wire fencing to mark their new zone. They will retain control of one of the three strategic hills which overlook the city - a reminder of the thin line of territory which now separates the two sides. Under the disengagement agreement, twenty days are allowed for the setting up of the buffer zone which varies in width from between 0.5 kms (500 yards) to 10 kms (6 miles), running from Mount Hermon in the north to the Rafid Junction in the south.