venerdì 26 settembre 2014

Turismo di guerra

In Israele nella città fantasma di Quneitra i turisti guardano il confine Siriano cercando di curiosare verso il nemico Isis e Al Qaeda.

Il vouyerismo non ha confini.

QUNEITRA, ISRAEL— “Is this where I can see Al Qaeda?” the man on the motorbike asks.

He’s pulled up to a crowd of people at a viewpoint on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights. It’s hot outside, and in the distance, in Syria’s Quneitra Valley, the hills have faded to a dull shade of yellow-brown. Yet here on this strategic high ground about three hours from the beaches of Tel Aviv, the landscape isn’t the main attraction.

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A group of tourists on the Bental Mountain overlooking Syria.
The man gets off his motorbike, puts a coin into a set of binoculars and gazes out across the border.
“A car is coming,” he tells the crowd.
“Is it Nusra?” a young man asks, referring to the Nusra Front, an Al Qaeda affiliate.
“How should I know?” the man says as he looks into the binoculars.
For 40 years, Israelis have peered out across the border and seen the Syrian army. Now a new enemy has arrived, and people here—both Jewish and Druze—are coming to grips with the fact that Nusra, along with other Syrian rebels groups, are controlling this disputed strip of land in southern Syria. Some gather here for the sheer novelty of catching a glimpse of black banners and Al Qaeda fighters on patrol. Others live in fear that the jihadists will attack Israel or harm their relatives living on the Syrian side.

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UNDOF peacekeepers overlooking the fighting in Syria.
There’s plenty of cause for concern. Just ask the United Nations peacekeepers who for four decades monitored the border crossing and the demilitarized zone between the two countries. In recent weeks, after the rebels took control of the Syrian side, Nusra fighters besieged a U.N. base, and in a separate incident, kidnapped 45 Fijian peacekeepers. The U.N. decided this week to pull all its personnel out of Syria and move them into Israel. Now the border crossing is abandoned, save for a smattering of rebel soldiers.
In the weeks since the rebels took over, Israel has already seen cross border violence. The Israeli army shot down a Syrian fighter jet on Tuesday after it allegedly penetrated Israeli air space as part of a planned attack on the rebels in the Quneitra area. Weeks ago, mortar fire fell on an Israeli kibbutz near the border, and two tank shells hit another kibbutz, destroying part of a nearby winery.
“We heard an explosion, and my kids came running in, saying they saw something flying over the kibbutz,” says Tal Pelter, the winery’s owner. “I sent them home and told an Austrian couple who was visiting for a wine tasting that perhaps it’s better if they move up north. About an hour later, the shell hit our production unit, and our watchman was injured.”

Tal Pelter, a winemakr from En Ziwan, in his vineyard which was hit by a tank shell.
Winemaker Tal Pelter from En Ziwan in his vineyard, which was hit by a tank shell.
The Israeli government rarely speaks publicly about its border policy. But the military responded by shelling Syrian army positions across the border. A senior Israel Defense Forces (IDF) general acknowledged Nusra’s role in the coalition controlling the Syrian side last week, though emphasized that Nusra is not ISIS, which was kicked out of Al Qaeda in part for its brutal tactics. “As veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq,” he said, “Nusra learned that it’s very important to conquer the hearts and minds of the people.”
Perhaps, but many living here are anxious, especially among the roughly 130,000 Israeli Druze. They’re a Muslim minority that Nusra views as heretical. As one resident of the Israeli Druze town of Majdl Shams puts it: “For Nusra, Druze are worse then Jews.”
In Israel, most Druze are citizens and often serve in the army.  But in the Golan, which Israel formally annexed in 1981, there are 30,000 Druze who didn’t flee to Syria after the war. Many remain loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and have family on the other side of the border.
The Druze here aren’t worried only about their homes—they’re also worried about their relatives in Syria. The rebels claim to control 80 percent of the border with Israel. The lone exception is the Syrian village of Hadar, which is located just opposite Majdal Shams.

A photo published by Jabhat al Nusra, showing fighters overlooking the Quneitra region. On the horizon: Israel.
A photo published by the Nusra Front showing fighters overlooking the Quneitra region. On the horizon: Israel.
Two weeks ago, a convoy of 70 rebel fighters, including Nusra members, was ambushed on the way to occupy Hadar. The Syrian media reported that an elite Druze militia thwarted them, killing all the rebels. And yet some here in the Golan think Israel was involved in the ambush. And many believe hope that if situation deteriorates, the Israelis will move the Syrian Druze into their territory.