Ex-minister: Late Assad gave Quneitra to Israel to secure Syrian capital

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Former Syrian information minister Muhammed Al-Zu’bi said late President Hafez Al-Assad had let go of the southwestern city of Quneitra to the control of the Israelis to secure the capital Damascus in June 1967.

On June 10, 1967, the last day of the Six-Day War with Egypt, Jordan and Syria, Israel began its control of Quneitra. At that time, Zu’bi was the information minister and Assad was the defense minister.

“Israel occupied the Golan Heights without a military confrontation with the Syrian forces in the 1967 war,” Zu’bi said in an interview with Al Arabiya News Channel’s program the Political Memory.

The Golan Heights is internationally recognized as Syrian territory occupied by Israel. Currently, two-thirds of the Golan Heights are occupied and administered by Israel, while the remainder is under Syria. The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) maintains a buffer zone between the two.

Zu’bi said he received the famous communique no. 66 during the war, which forced him to announce that Quneitra had fallen to Israel but he refused.

But under pressure, he later had to make the announcement following the request of Syrian Prime Minister Yusuf Za’ine.

However, Zu’bi recalls that Assad at the time told him: “We may have been hasty in broadcasting the announcement 66.”

Later, with the help of al Assad, Zu’bi worked on reformulating the announcement where he had to say that “battles are still ongoing in Quneitra.”

In a following communique no. 67, Zu’bi said he had to “rectify” what had been said previously.

To bolster his claim that the Syrian leadership at the time gave up Quneira, Zu’bi remembered how the Syrian chief of staff at the time told him “the nearest Israeli tank to Quneitra was 4 kilometers away.”

Also, the Baath leadership in Quneitra also informed a member of the central leadership, Marwan Habash, that the city was free of Israelis, contrary to what was announced on the radio.

He also said that arms were transported from Quneitra and Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations denied that his country occupied the city after the issuance of the 66 announcement.

After the 1967 war, Israel captured the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria.