Syrian government forces raised the country’s two-star flag on the frontier with the Israeli Golan Heights on Thursday, a monitor said, four years since they were last deployed there.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said regime forces had entered the buffer zone separating Syrian territory from the Israeli Golan and hoisted the flag there.
“Regime forces pulled up the Syrian flag over the Quneitra crossing, the main border point with the occupied Golan, around four years after losing control of the area,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
He said government fighters and police units entered the destroyed city of Quneitra, which lies in the buffer zone, after hardline fighters quit the area.
Al-Watan, a pro-regime newspaper, reported on Thursday that “army troops raised the Syrian flag above the Quneitra crossing, a few dozen meters from enemy Israeli troops.”
Israel captured 1,200 square kilometers (460 square miles) of the Golan during the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in 1981, in a move never recognized internationally.
Some 510 square kilometers of the Golan remain on the Syrian side of the ceasefire line, with United Nations peacekeeping forces overseeing the buffer in between.
Syrian state news agency SANA said “army units deployed at the Flag Roundabout and inside the liberated city of Quneitra, after the end of the terrorist presence there.”
Fighters from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an alliance led by an Al-Qaeda affiliate, had held Quneitra city and the adjacent frontier with the buffer zone, which has remained sealed for decades.
They were bused out of the area on Saturday to Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, after rejecting a Russian-brokered deal to hand over territory to the regime.
The raising of the flag in Quneitra comes just two days after Syrian state media said government forces had reached the frontier with Israel.
Al-Ikhbariya TV broadcast footage from the fence demarcating the UN buffer zone between Syrian and Israeli forces inside the Golan Heights.
The camera showed an Israeli observation post 400 meters (440 yards) away.
It was the first time government forces have taken up positions along the frontier since an uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad swept through the country in 2011. Islamic State fighters later seized territory from rebels along the frontier region.
Recent media reports have said that Israel and Syria, along with the US and Russia, are interested in restoring the situation on the Golan Heights to the terms of the 1974 Agreement on Disengagement to define the no-man’s land, demilitarized zones, and deployment of Israeli and Syrian forces on both sides of the border.