Inside the Middle East
April 7, 2011
Posted: 806 GMT

"This is our happy-land," said Hamad Awidat standing next to a minefield in Majdal Shams, a village in the Israeli-controlled northern Golan Heights, as he points at the Syrian side of the disengagement line.

Nestled on a hillside with an Israeli Army base situated at its center this Druze village is a mere stone's throw away from Syrian-controlled land, but because of the minefields separating its residents from their families on the other side, it might as well be a world away.

"I would rather live under a Syrian dictatorship, than under an Israeli democracy," said the 26 year-old television producer who harbors no illusions about the economic benefits of living on what he calls the "wrong side of the minefield."

"Economically I can tell you the situation here is not perfect but very good. You can see, it's very good. We live in a nice situation. We are working, making money. It's nice. But because of the pressure of the political situation, we cannot enjoy much with our money. This is the problem," he said, taking another drag on his cigarette.

The political no man's land of people living in Majdal Shams and the villages of Buqata, Mas'ada and Ein Kuniya puts them in a unique situation in the Middle East, a region where the unusual, strange and sometimes downright bizarre meet on a daily basis.

The Druze are a secretive monotheistic religious sect that trace their origins to 11th Century Egypt. They number about a quarter of a million with most concentrated in Syria, Israel and Lebanon.

While many of the Druze living inside Israel today have Israeli nationality and are staunchly loyal to the Jewish State, their counterparts in the northern Golan rejected Israeli nationality in 1981 and have remained loyal to Syria until this day.

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Filed under: Israel •Religion •Syria

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March 26, 2011
Posted: 900 GMT
Palestinian relatives of Dirar Abu Sisi attend a Gaza demonstration calling for his release from an Israeli jail on Tuesday.
Palestinian relatives of Dirar Abu Sisi attend a Gaza demonstration calling for his release from an Israeli jail on Tuesday.

Jerusalem (CNN) - In the latest chapter of an unfolding story that reads like a spy thriller, a Palestinian engineer who was allegedly abducted by Israeli intelligence services in the Ukraine over a month ago will be kept in custody for at least another week after an Israeli court ruling.

After being held for over 30 days in an Israeli jail under mysterious circumstances, Dirar Abu Sisi's incarceration will last at least one more week after a judge in a Petach Tikvah court Thursday granted an Israeli government request to keep Abu Sisi behind bars in order for the state to produce evidence against him.

"This request means that Israel does not have, even after 34 days of interrogation, sufficient evidence to indict Dirar Abu Sisi with any offense under Israeli law and under these circumstances we argue that he should be released, " Abu Sisi's attorney Smadar Ben-Natan told CNN following his court appearance.

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Filed under: Gaza •Hamas •Israel •Palestinians

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