(AFP) – Mar 2, 2010
GENEVA — Up to 10,000 tonnes of apples are to be sent from Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to Syria, after long-time foes Israel and Syria approved the transfer, the international Red Cross said Tuesday.
"The transfer of apples across the demarcation line is one of the very few crossings that take place from the Golan into Syria proper," said the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in a statement.
"The sale of fruit is the main source of income for the Syrian farmers of the Golan," added the relief agency.
The transfer, which started Tuesday, is expected to last around eight weeks. It will be the fifth such operation since 2005 as no transfer was made in 2008 due to a poor harvest.
"The transfer of this year's harvest will be the largest in a series of such operations which began in 2005," said Marianne Gasser, the ICRC's head of delegation in Syria.
"We hope it will help raise awareness of other humanitarian concerns -- for example the fact that family members separated by the demarcation line cannot cross the gates to maintain family ties," she added.
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.
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