Quneitra crossing, occupied Golan Heights -In this area of Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Salman Fakheraldeen stood atop an empty military bunker and watched from afar as a battle raged between Syrian government military forces and anti-regime rebel fighters on the other side of a demarcation barrier.
“We have been hearing the bombing and the fighting for the last three years,” said Fakheraldeen, a researcher at local human rights group, al-Marsad, on September 6. “But the last three weeks have been surreal. It has been constant. The fighting has never been this close [to the Golan Heights].”
A largely unarmed uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government broke out in March 2011, yet it wasn’t long before the conflict spiralled into sectarian violence. The United Nations’ latest estimates place the death toll at more than 191,000 people.
Born and raised in the nearby village of Majdal Shams, Fakheraldeen is one of the estimated 20,000 Syrians living in the 70 percent of the Golan Heights occupied by Israel during the 1967 war. Israel announced its annexation of the territory in 1981, but the international community and local Syrian residents reject this claim. The vast majority of Syrians in the Golan also turned down offers of Israeli citizenship, and instead, hold Israeli-issued travel documents.
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