PHOTOS: Scars on Middle East landscape bear witness to past peace failures

A view of the derelict remains of Gaza International Airport in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, April 27, 2019. President Bill Clinton attended the opening ceremony in 1998. But Israeli air strikes and bulldozers closed it down during the second Palestinian uprising, or intifada, a few months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. (Photo: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)

JERUSALEM — Talk of Middle East peace is in the air again, as politicians are set to gather in Bahrain to launch the latest in a long line of initiatives to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Thousands of words and millions of dollars will likely be expended at the U.S.-led conference on June 25 and 26 aimed at boosting the Palestinian economy, as the first phase of President Trump's long-delayed peace plan gets underway.

Bearing witness to the difficulty of the task are the scars left by past wars across the landscape of Israel, the Palestinian Territories and the Golan Heights.

Ancient ruins and medieval castles bear witness to the fact that conflict between the peoples of the Levant is nothing new.

Since the end of British Mandate rule and the creation of the modern state of Israel in 1948, invasions, wars, armistices, treaties, uprisings, barriers, checkpoints and civil wars have shifted the boundaries of who can travel — and live — where.

Yet on the ground there remain fragments from those who came and went before.

A Syrian tank lies turned over in the Banias Nature Reserve in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Feb. 27, 2019. Israel captured the area, a former demilitarized zone, in the 1967 Six Day War. (Photo: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)

In the far north, on the western edge of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, a decades-old rusting Syrian tank can still be seen lying upside down in a whitewater stream.

It lies in what used to be a demilitarized zone that separated the Syrian and Israeli armies from 1949 until the Six Day War of 1967, when Israel captured most of the mountainous plateau from Syria, occupying and later annexing it.

Today, Israeli tourists carve graffiti into the metal of the tank while dangling their feet in the foaming water below.

"It’s surrealistic," said Daniel Alonim, 54, as his friends played Scrabble atop the hulk. "Like it fell from space."

It did fall, but not from space.

TRENCHES, FORTIFICATIONS

A part of a trench in a former Jordanian military post known as Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem, March 5, 2019. Originally built by the British, the site was captured by Jordan in the 1948-1949 war and held by it until Israeli troops captured it in the 1967 Six Day War. (Photo: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)

Amiram Efrati, from nearby Kibbutz Dan, fought in a June 1967 battle against a half-dozen Syrian tanks that had advanced on Israeli positions from the then-Syrian-held Golan. One of the tanks opened fire in a dry wheat field, he recalls.

"The fire caught up to the tank tracks and metal chains and they started to retreat," said Efrati, now 82. "One of the tanks went too close to the edge. It was too heavy for that kind of terrain and it fell down. It's still there."

Fifty-two years later he has little confidence that peace efforts will succeed. "I don't believe it, not in the Middle East."

Across the Golan are other reminders of the 1967 and 1973 wars between Israel and Syria: minefields, foxholes and abandoned armor. One former Syrian building bears Arabic graffiti reading "The Syrian army passed by here."

It is not the only army to have passed through.

The British army arrived in 1917 and left in 1948. As they departed, neighboring Arab countries invaded, and Jordanian forces captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

An armistice a year later created the "Green Line" that separated Israeli-controlled West Jerusalem from the Jordanian-held east of the city for nearly two decades, from 1949 until the 1967 war, when Israel captured East Jerusalem.

There is now almost no visible sign of the Green Line in the middle of the city.

But on Jerusalem's Ammunition Hill, a memorial preserves the old Jordanian trenches and fortifications, on a site originally built by the British.

ARAFAT'S HELICOPTER

The broken helicopter of the late Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat sits atop a structure in Gaza City, April 29, 2019. Without its main rotor, it is now on public display in the coastal enclave that is now controlled by the Palestinian Authority's most powerful domestic rival, Hamas. (Photo: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)

Other relics of the British era survive. In the West Bank, a British jail and military buildings still stand in Al-Jiftlik, near Jericho. Long abandoned, sheep now wander through the empty buildings. The Israeli military sometimes uses it for training, Palestinian residents say.

Gaza, a tiny Palestinian enclave on the Mediterranean coast, also is filled with relics of the recent and distant past.

In the Gaza War Cemetery lie 3,217 commonwealth soldiers from World War I, and more than 200 from World War II.

In the postwar era, Gaza remained a frequent flashpoint — until the Oslo peace process of the 1990s brought hopes of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Huge amounts of money were spent creating the institutions of the Palestinian Authority under its first president, Yasser Arafat, who used Gaza's airport to fly abroad on official visits.

But the optimism of the Oslo era receded, giving way to mutual recriminations and renewed violence.

A sign warning of landmines is seen on a fence in the Golan Heights, the territory that Israel captured from Syria and occupied in the 1967 Six Day War, Feb. 27, 2019. Many Israeli and foreign tourists drive past on their way to popular holiday spots. (Photo: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)

The airport was an early casualty: Israel destroyed its runway a few months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, deeming it a security threat during a Palestinian uprising in Gaza and the West Bank.

Arafat's helicopter – the presidential transport of a long-dead leader — is now a rotorless relic on public display in Gaza City. And the skeletons of the airport buildings lie gutted and abandoned next to Gaza's southern border with Egypt.

Story by Stephen Farrell - Photography by Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

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An abandoned mosque is seen in the Golan Heights, in territory that Israel captured from Syria and occupied in the 1967 Six Day War, Feb. 27, 2019. Until 1967 a Syrian village stood near the site, close to the United Nations-monitored "Area of Separation" that divides Israeli and Syrian military forces under a 1974 ceasefire arrangement. (Photo: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)
Concrete blast walls are seen in an open area once used by the Israeli military near Rahat, June 3, 2019. Once part of a facility for training in urban warfare, the barriers are now an isolated scar on the landscape. (Photo: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)
The wall of a structure is seen in a former Syrian outpost in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, the territory that Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War, Feb. 27, 2019. In stark contrast to the beauty of the surrounding countryside, it is now crumbling and covered in graffiti. One Arabic message reads: "The Syrian army passed by here." (Photo: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)
British soldiers are depicted in a mural on an old pillbox in Jerusalem, June 1, 2019. The pillbox, dating back to the era of British Mandate before 1948, stands abandoned in a busy intersection of Jerusalem. The mural was added in recent years. (Photo: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)
A disused tank lies abandoned near an Israeli military training area in the Jordan Valley in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, March 26, 2019. Israel and Jordan fought during the 1967 Six Day War but signed a peace treaty in 1994. (Photo: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)
An Israeli military outpost is seen on Zikim beach in southern Israel, close to the border with the Gaza Strip, March 13, 2019. The unused Israeli military outpost remains a scar on the landscape. (Photo: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)
A part of a trench is seen in a former Jordanian military post known as Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem, March 5, 2019. Originally built by the British, the site was captured by Jordan in the 1948-1949 war and held by it until Israeli troops captured it in the 1967 Six Day War. (Photo: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)
Part of an abandoned Syrian building is seen in the Golan Heights, in territory that Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War, Feb. 27, 2019. Once a military headquarters, it is one of many Syrian buildings left deserted and abandoned since the war. (Photo: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)
A house is seen in Lifta, a ruined Palestinian Arab village whose inhabitants left or were forced from their homes in the conflict that accompanied the end of British rule and the founding of Israel in 1948, March 5, 2019. The abandoned ruins are visible to travelers arriving at the western entrance of Jerusalem. (Photo: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)
A part of a structure is seen in a former Jordanian military base near the Dead Sea in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, March 26, 2019. The building was deserted following the 1967 Six Day War when Israel captured the area from Jordan. (Photo: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)
An abandoned mosque is seen in the Golan Heights, in territory that Israel captured from Syria and occupied in the 1967 Six Day War, Feb. 27, 2019. Until 1967 a Syrian village stood near the site, which now lies just 5 km from the United Nations-monitored "Area of Separation" that divides Israeli and Syrian military forces under a 1974 ceasefire arrangement. (Photo: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)
Buildings constructed during the British Mandate era to serve as jails and fortified positions are seen in Al-Jiftlik village near Jericho, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, April 7, 2019. Long abandoned, sheep now wander through the empty buildings, searching for vegetation in the scorching heat of the Jordan Valley. The Israeli military sometimes uses them for training, Palestinian residents say. (Photo: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)
A bunker is seen in the Golan Heights, in territory that Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War, Feb. 27, 2019. It was used for military purposes and has been deserted for many years. (Photo: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)

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