On Nakba day he joined thousands of others as they marched to the ceasefire line between Syria and occupied Gollan Hieghts, he crossed the mine fields on the cease fire line in Majdal Shams, He and his fellow demonstrators were warmly welcomed, and he quickly began plotting a way to return Jerusalem.
"He decided to lie and managed to convince a journalist from Jerusalem that he was a reporter with the Arabic newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi.He traded on the name of his family, that of a well-known Jerusalem clan, and his knowledge of the city to convince the journalist to vouch for him to a nervous taxi driver."The IOF arressted him on Huwara checkpoint near Nablis on his way towards Jerusalem, putting an end of his dream of reaching Jerusalem and praying in Alaqsa.
He was detained his for few days before being expelled back to Syria.
After three weeks, on Naksa day Izat decided to try again. Unfortunately, his dream of returning home ended quickly and violently.
As he and his fellows tryied to cut through a line of barbed wire to reach the border fence, Israeli troops opened fire.
Syria refugee's dream of return ends in tragedy
But the return that Maswadi had longed for was not to be, and his attempts to reach the Holy City would eventually lead to his death, three weeks later, in the fields between Syria and the Golan town of Majdal Shams.
Born to a Palestinian family in Jerusalem in 1977, Maswadi grew up in the nearby town of Al-Eizariya until 1984, when his family moved first to Jordan and then to Syria.
His father moved back to Jerusalem shortly afterward, but Maswadi and his mother were told they had lost their residency permits under an Israeli law which quietly revoked the residency of anyone who stayed away more than three years.
So Maswadi stayed in Damascus, fearing he would never be able to go home, until he heard that Palestinian refugees in Syria were planning to march towards Israel on May 15, the anniversary of Israel's creation amid the mass dispossession of Palestinians.
Palestinians mark the occasion as the "Nakba" or "catastrophe" when hundreds of thousands of them fled or were expelled from their homes in the war that accompanied Israel's declaration of independence.
On the day of the protests, a clear, warm Sunday, Maswadi joined thousands of others as they marched unimpeded to the ceasefire line between Israel and Syria, just across from Majdal Shams in the Israel-occupied Golan Heights.
A handful of Israeli troops stationed in the area, apparently caught short, watched in horror as Maswadi and other protesters moved quickly across heavily-mined fields, cut through a fence and entered Majdal Shams.
He and his fellow demonstrators were warmly welcomed, and Maswadi quickly began plotting a way to get back to Jerusalem.
To do so, he had to circumvent Israeli checkpoints set up to catch infiltrators from Syria and find a taxi driver willing to take him three hours south to Jerusalem.
He decided to lie and managed to convince a journalist from Jerusalem that he was a reporter with the Arabic newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi.
He traded on the name of his family, that of a well-known Jerusalem clan, and his knowledge of the city to convince the journalist to vouch for him to a nervous taxi driver.
"An Israeli soldier stopped me at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Majdal Shams, and said words to me that I didn't understand but I'm sure he was asking for my identity card," Maswadi wrote in an online account shortly afterward.
"I told him I was a journalist and he allowed me to cross."
He started to believe he would make it home, and eagerly peered out of the window as the car drove south, marveling at the scenery.
"The features of my country began to become clear. It was the most beautiful feeling of my life, to see the country I had dreamed of. All the words in the world can't describe how it felt," he wrote.
"I can only say that it was 'homeland' with all that that means -- love, longing, beauty, magnificence."
But Maswadi's journey was about to grind to a halt. He ran into another Israeli checkpoint, and this time his ruse was discovered.
"They surprised us with the checkpoint and I couldn't go on or return or even tell the driver the truth. This was the end of my journey to Palestine, the end of my dream and my goal," he wrote.
Maswadi was held by Israeli security officials for an unspecified period of time before being expelled back to Syria.
His driver, a Palestinian from occupied East Jerusalem, was jailed for five days, then put under house arrest for another five days before being released on condition he did not return to the Golan for the next three months.
For Maswadi, being expelled was devastating, but he quickly decided to try again -- this time on June 5, when Palestinians mark the "Naksa" or "setback" of the 1967 Six-Day War.
This time, Maswadi's dream of returning home would end quickly and violently.
As he joined hundreds of other protesters trying to cut through a line of barbed wire to reach the border fence, Israeli troops opened fire.
That day, 23 people were killed and hundreds more injured, according to figures given by Syrian state television.
Israel acknowledged the deaths of 10 protesters, but said all of them died in a second protest in Quneitra, several kilometres further south, when Molotov cocktails thrown by the demonstrators set off Syrian mines in no-man's land.
But Maswadi's father Aziz has no doubt about how his eldest son died.
"He was killed by Israeli bullets in Majdal Shams," he told AFP from the family's home in Al-Eizariya. "It was his dream to return to Jerusalem.
"They told me that the bullets perforated his body," he said, adding that his son had been buried in Syria.
Sobbing, Aziz Maswadi said he was denied permission to travel to Syria for the funeral in Damascus. "My son is a martyr, I wanted to see him one last time."
|With hassan Hijazi|