Thursday, December 30, 2021

Syria: Israel's Plans To Expand Golan 'Dangerous And Unprecedented Escalation'

Syria condemns Israel's plans to double number of Golan residents

Syria on Monday condemned Israeli plans to double within five years the number of Jewish residents living in the Golan Heights, saying the move constituted a "dangerous and unprecedented escalation," between the neighboring countries.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced on Sunday a 1 billion shekels (over $300 million) plan to boost civilian Israeli presence in the country's north. The announcement was followed by a cabinet vote approving the construction of some 7,300 additional homes units on the strategic plateau.

"Syria strongly condemns the dangerous and unprecedented escalation by the Israeli occupation authorities" in the Golan, the state-run SANA news agency said, adding Damascus would seek to use all legally available means to retake the territory.

Speaking to Syrian TV station Al-Ekhbariya, Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad called Israel's actions against Syria "criminal" and said they violated the 1981 UN Resolution 497 declaring Israel's annexation of the Golan as "null and void."

The statement said the Syrian government remains committed to the Syrians living in the Golan "who are steadfast in their resistance to the Israeli occupation and their rejection of the decision to annex the Golan."

Some 50,000 people live in the Golan Heights — roughly half of them Jewish Israelis and half in Druze Arab villages that formerly were part of Syria.

Israel seized the 1,200-square-kilometre (460-square-mile) Golan Heights during the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed it in 1981. The US recognized Israel's sovereignty over the Golan in 2019, but the action remains unrecognized by the rest of the international community.

Syria demands the return of the Golan, which also overlooks Lebanon and borders Jordan.

Israel and Syria have technically been in a state of war since the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948. Jerusalem and Damascus have fought each other in three major wars: the 1948 War of Independence, the 1967 Six-Day War, and the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Since 1974, the two have maintained an armistice agreement along the so-called Purple Line, which has largely been adhered to by both countries, though not by Hezbollah – an Iranian-backed Shiite terrorist group based in Lebanon, which also maintains interests in Syria, where Iran is trying to establish a growing foothold.

Israel views Iranian entrenchment on its northern frontier as a red line, and it has repeatedly struck Iran-linked facilities and weapons in Syria, which is reeling from a lengthy civil war.

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