Hundreds of Druse clergymen from the Golan Heights were allowed across military lines into Syria on Thursday for an annual pilgrimage to a holy shrine.
As the bearded clerics in black robes and white turbans walked some 300 meters (330 yards) through the buffer zone between Israeli and Syrian checkpoints at the town of Quneitra, 65 kilometers (28 miles) south of Damascus, relatives welcomed them on the Syrian side.
Six of the 528 clerics were elderly or handicapped and had to be driven to the Syrian side in UN buses.
An official at the International Red Cross who supervised the transfer at Quneitra, said that Israeli authorities allowed the pilgrims to stay in Syria for four days. In past years, they were permitted in for two weeks. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press.