Israel, Syria agree Golan apple transfer: ICRC

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A record 12,000 tonnes of apples will be sent from Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to Syria after the rival governments approved the rare crossing, the international Red Cross said Monday.

"We are expecting to transfer to Syria proper 12,000 tonnes of apples grown by Syrian farmers living in the occupied Golan," said Marianne Gasser, International Committee of the Red Cross head of delegation in Damascus.

"That's three times more than in 2005, when the ICRC first organized such an operation," she added, pointing out that selling apples marked a significant source of income for farmers living in Golan.

The crossing will start Tuesday, and will last about 10 weeks.

"The transfer of apples across the demarcation line is one of the very few crossings that take place at Kuneitra," noted Raoul Bittel, the ICRC's deputy head of delegation in Israel and the occupied territories.

Israel occupied the Golan in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed it in 1981 in a move never recognised by the international community.

More than 18,000 Syrians, mostly Druze, an offshoot of Islam, are left from the Golan's original population of 150,000. The vast majority of the Druze have refused to take Israeli citizenship.

The plateau which overlooks much of northern Israel is also home to nearly 20,000 Jewish settlers.

Despite a 1949 armistice agreement, the two neighbours remain technically in a state of war.

© 2011 AFP

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