Damascus Condemns Israeli Plan to Double Jewish Settler Population in Occupied Golan Heights
© AP Photo / Ariel SchalitOct. 11, 2018, an Israeli flag in front of the village of Majdal Shams in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. Syria slammed President Donald Trump's abrupt declaration that Washington will recognise Israel's sovereignty over the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, saying Friday March 22, 2019, the statement was "irresponsible" and a threat to international peace and stability
© AP Photo / Ariel Schalit
The Syrian government has raised objection to an Israeli plan to double the settler population in the Golan Heights, a territory east of the Sea of Galilee and River Jordan that was seized from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War and largely depopulated of its Arab residents.
Syria’s Foreign and Expatriates Ministry condemned what it called a “dangerous and unprecedented escalation” by Israel in a statement carried Monday by the state-owned Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA).
“The Syrian government reaffirms its permanent and strong support for its Syrian citizens, the people of the occupied Syrian Golan who resist the Israeli occupation and who reject the annexation decision and the policy of seizing lands by force,” the statement said.
Damascus added that it would “work to return it completely to the homeland with all available means guaranteed by international law,” noting the Israeli occupation and claimed annexation is in violation of multiple United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions.
On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett convened a meeting of its cabinet in the Golan kibbutz of Mevo Hama at which he announced a $317 million plan to double the territory’s population of Jewish settlers. The plan involves building two new towns and 7,300 housing units over the next five years, as well as expanding the housing stock of existing settler towns.
The population of the territory is about 50,000: 27,000 Jewish Israeli settlers, 24,000 Druze Arabs who remained after the 1967 conquest, and 2,000 Alawites, an ethnoreligious group who originated from Shia Islam, according to the Times of Israel. During the 1967 war, in which Israel launched simultaneous sneak-attacks on Egypt, Jordan and Syria, roughly 100,000 Syrian Arabs fled from the Golan and were denied the ability to return by the Israeli government, becoming refugees.
Syria briefly recaptured most of the Golan during the 1973 war, but an Israeli counteroffensive reclaimed nearly all of the lost territory. In 1981, the Knesset declared the territory formally annexed as part of the State of Israel. The UNSC decried this decision in Resolution 497, calling Israel’s legal authority in the Golan “null and void and without international legal effect” and demanding it withdraw to the pre-1967 borders, which were endorsed by the UN.
By contrast, the US has spoken out strongly against Bennett’s plans to expand settlements in the West Bank, a region of dense Palestinian settlement that Israel also seized from Jordan in the 1967 war, which the UN also considers to be illegally occupied, and which was determined in the Oslo Accords to be part of the territorial basis for a future Palestinian state.