Over 2,000 residents of the Druze town Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights gathered on Thursday to demonstrate their support of Syria on its 62nd Independence Day, wearing traditional Syrian clothing and waving Syrian flags.
Their demonstration coincided with the anti-Israeli remarks made by Syrian President Bashar Assad. The demonstrators threw rice and set off fireworks.
The demonstration took place on the 'Hill of Cries' on the Israel-Syria border. On the Syrian side of the border a similar demonstration took place, with over 1,500 participants waving to their relatives on the Israeli side and playing the Syrian anthem on loudspeakers.
Demonstrators on the Israeli side also waved Palestinian Authority flags. According to the organizers of the event, many Palestinians have arrived at the annual demonstration in recent years, to support the Druze population living in the Golan. The leader of the Islamic movement, Raad Salah, and Hadash Chairman MK Mohammad Barakeh also participated in the event.
"Today we are celebrating the Syrian Independence Day together with our Syrian Arab brothers," a resident of Majdal Shams, Abu Salah told Ynet. "The Golan has a majestic history of struggling against occupation, against the French, and for the past 40 years against Israel. We have always been and will always remain a part of Syria, and we aspire to end the occupation and return this precious land to its home in Syria."
Referring to Assad's messages of war to Israel Abu Salah said: "We don't know if there will be a war, but the way of peace is certainly the only way. Everyone knows there are only losers in war, Israel learned this lesson in the summer of 2006. Israel thinks that it can achieve things by way of force, but history proves otherwise. The Syrian side is holding its hand out in peace."
Another demonstrator expressed hopes of being reunited with his family in Syria. "Today I feel like a proud Syrian citizen living in exile. I hope Israel understands that peace is the only way to end hostility. I am happy to see that on the Syrian side of the border many support our cause, and I hope that by next year a peace treaty will have been signed, agreeing to return us to our homeland."