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Tuesday, May 10, 2005 

Rebirth of the Golan

A multi-million dollar hospital has opened in Qunaitra, the capital of the Golan Heights.

Qunaitra is on the edge of the Golan Heights - nearly all of the Heights have been occupied by Israel for 30 years.

The hospital is a hugely symbolic statement. For years the Syrian government refused to rebuild Qunaitra. They left it just as it was given to them after the Israelis pulled back. The occupiers had flattened every single building, and riddled the hospital with bullet holes (below).

But recently the government said it would rebuild Qunaitra - partly to re-establish life in the former thriving mountainous capital, and partly as a step towards rapproachment with Israel, whose tanks patrol the Western rim of Qunaitra.

A four lane highway is quietly being built between Damascus and Qunaitra, and a crop of apples was recently allowed through from the occupied part of the Golan. It came after an unprecedented deal between Israel and Syria.

The major new hospital has been financed by Syrian ally Japan. It boasts 40 specialist physicians, and will provide health care to the neighbouring governorates of Dera'a and Suweida.

It has 200 beds, and some of the most advanced equipment in the world. Thousands have benefitted in the hospital's first month of operation.

in cha Allah, this is a first step towards peace

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