Quneitra – Golan - Atlas Obscura


Ghost Town in the Demilitarized Zone of the Golan Heights. 


Quneitra is the destroyed and abandoned capital city of the Quneitra Governorate. The area is under Syrian control within the UN-patrolled demilitarized zone between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The Golan Heights was occupied in the course of the Six Day War of 1967. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War the city was recaptured by Syrian forces but was once again occupied by Israel in a counter-offensive.

After the 1974 ceasefire, Israeli troops withdrew from Quneitra. Before handing Quneitra back to Syria, the Israelis evacuated the population, and then systematically destroyed the buildings of the city selling anything movable to Israeli contractors – a move which was heavily condemned by the UN. The late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad ordered that the city shall not be rebuilt and since then the ruins have become something of a propaganda exhibit.

Today the ruins of the flattened houses of the city, which once had a population of 20,000, provide an eerie atmosphere, reminiscent of post-apocalyptic films. To visit Quneitra a permit must be obtained from the Syrian Ministry of Interior in Damascus. Any visit is accompanied by Syrian military personnel to protect visitors from wandering off into the minefields that surround the city.

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October 11, 2011

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