By Mitchell Bard
Kuneitra was severely damaged in both the 1967 and 1973 conflicts. In the Yom Kippur War, it was shelled and captured by Syrian troops, retaken by Israelis, and then defended against intense Syrian counter attacks. Tanks roamed through the town, between and through buildings. Kuneitra also suffered damage from 81 days of artillery duels that preceded the disengagement.
Kuneitra was not an agricultural center. Its strategic position near the Israeli border proved suitable for the location of Syrian army facilities, including command and control centers for the entire front-line area. Syria concentrated at least half its army in this region, of which Kuneitra was the capital. Military installations, barracks, support centers, fuel and ammunition dumps were constructed. As a result, the sources of livelihood of the inhabitants changed from primitive peasant agriculture to service in the army.
Long before Israel's alleged destruction of the town, the London Times (May 5, 1974) reported Kuneitra, which once "had about 17,000 residents plus a Syrian army garrison...is in ruins and deserted after seven years of war and dereliction. It looks like a wild west town struck by an earthquake....Nearly every building is heavily damaged and scores have collapsed...."