20:24 GMT06 May 2021
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    Israelis on Tuesday are voting in local elections, where they'll choose members of local councils as well as other officials, including the mayor of Jerusalem.

    Polling stations have been closed in several towns with Druze and Arab populations following scuffles and a tear gas attack, the Times of Israel reported.

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    In addition, the media said that the police have started investigating two cases of alleged voter intimidation.

    By 11 a.m. local time, over 750,000 Israelis had voted in the local elections, reflecting a voter turnout of 7.17%, Israel's interior ministry stated.

    Protest in Quneitra

    At the same time, citizens of villages in the Golan Heights refused to take part in the Israeli election vote for local authorities. Moreover, the citizens started a protest march in the city of Quneitra, the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported.

    According to SANA, local residents gathered near a school in Majdal Shams to hamper the election process; Israeli security forces subsequently attempted to disperse the protesters.

    Later in the day, the Israeli police have confirmed that they used "special means" to disperse hundreds of protesters in the town of Majdal Shams, located in the disputed Golan Heights, after members of the Druze ethnic minority gathered on Tuesday to protest the first Israeli municipal elections in the region since the Israeli occupation.

    "Hundreds of people have gathered near polling places in the village of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights in an attempt to interfere with municipal elections. In response to the public disorder, the police dispersed the crowd," the police said in a press release, adding that they had to use special means during the confrontation with protesters.

    The police also noted that all polling places in the town were open and that the elections were going as planned.

    Voters in four villages in the Golan Heights, which is the disputed area located between Israel's northeastern border and Syria's southwest, participated in elections for the first time since 1967, when the Syrian territory was first occupied by Israel. However, local members of the Druze ethno-religious minority, for the most part, have refused to obtain Israeli citizenship and have taken an ambivalent attitude towards local elections.

    Most of the Golan territory has been under Israel's control since the country occupied the area in 1967 and effectively annexed it in 1981.

    In 1973, Israel and Syria along with Egypt became involved in another war, with one of the objectives being the recovery of the territories seized by Israel in 1967. Damascus and Tel Aviv signed a disengagement agreement to end hostilities in the Golan in 1974. The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force was deployed in the area that same year to help maintain the ceasefire.

    A large number of the Druze living in the occupied Golan Heights refused to recognize Israel's control over the area and officially become the country's citizens.


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    druze, Arabs, elections, Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), Israel
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