YOUSSEF KARWASHAN | AFP | Getty Images
A Syrian soldier waves the national flag atop the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George in the town of Quneitra in the Syrian Golan Heights on July 27, 2018. – The town was almost completely destroyed by departing Israeli soldiers in 1974 after seven years of occupation.
Syrian President Bashar Assad has sought to restore central rule in several southwestern areas of the country in recent weeks, with a particular focus on reclaiming Golan Heights — an area of strategic and political significance for both Damascus and Jerusalem.
“From our perspective, the situation is returning to how it was before the civil war, meaning there is a real address, someone responsible, and central rule,” Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told reporters on Thursday.
On Monday, Assad regained control of the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights for the first time in seven years. This came shortly after Israel said it had shot down a Syrian warplane, claiming it had breached a Golan buffer zone and warned Iranian forces backing Assad against deploying there.
Israel had initially seized the Golan Heights frontier in the closing stages of the Six Day War in 1967 and later annexed the rocky area in a move not recognized internationally.