The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) started this week to transfer 8,000 tons of apples between the Golan Heights and the Syrian checkpoint at Kuneitra - a humanitarian act approved by both the Israeli and Syrian authorities. The transfer of all of the apples, grown by Druse farmers, is expected to take between six and eight weeks. The ICRC said the apple transfer through the demarcation line "was no everyday event. The ICRC is acting in its capacity as a neutral intermediary at the request of the farmers of the occupied Golan. There has been keen interest on both sides in the apple transfer," said Jean-Jacques Fresard, the ICRC's delegation head in Syria. "We hope this operation will help create an environment conducive to raising other humanitarian concerns, for example the fact that family members separated by the demarcation line cannot cross the gates to maintain family ties." The operation has been coordinated with all the parties concerned, including the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). It was only the fourth time the ICRC has conducted such an operation at the crossing. While there was no apple transfer in 2008 because of poor harvests, the ICRC transported almost 8,000 tons of apples in 2007, 5,000 in 2006 and 4,000 during the first operation in 2005. The sale of the fruit is the main source of income for the Druse farmers of the Golan, as apple production is the backbone of the local economy. The ICRC has been carrying out humanitarian activities in the Golan since 1967 and has maintained a permanent presence there since 1988. It says that in its role as a "trusted neutral intermediary," the ICRC provides a range of services addressing the consequences of restrictions placed on the movement of the population as well as legal and administrative difficulties resulting from the occupation.