After 27 years in prison for actions against the state, Israel released Syrian citizen Sidqi Suleiman on Wednesday to a hero’s welcome.
Suleiman, 45, is originally from Majdal Shams, a Druze town in the Golan Heights, near the border with Syria. He was the longest-serving Syrian national held by Israel, arrested when we was 18.
Suleiman was captured by Israeli security forces in August 1985 and sentenced to 27 years for creating an underground resistance movement opposing Israel’s presence in the Golan Heights, and for detonating a bomb at a military base, Fatah representative Nashaat al-Wahidi told Ma’an News.
Suleiman was received by a huge crowd in Majdal Shams, and in a fiery speech reiterated his opposition to Israel’s presence on the Golan Heights, the strategic ridge which was captured from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed to Israel in 1981.
Most Druze and Arab residents of the Golan Heights do not have Israeli citizenship, but are granted permanent residency cards in a similar situation to East Jerusalem’s Arab residents.
Suleiman’s homecoming was an opportunity for the Druze resident of the Golan to express their pro-Bashar Assad sentiments, with hundreds waving Syrian flags and chanting messages of support for the Syrian president. Many Golan Druze strongly align themselves with the Syrian regime, although recently some have begun to support the opposition in the ongoing Syrian civil war.