Israel set to double settlements in Golan Heights
Recently, Israel’s government approved a plan to double the Jewish settler population in the Golan Heights, 40 years after it annexed the territory captured from Syria.
About Golan Heights
- The region defined as the Golan Heights differs between disciplines: as a geological and biogeographical region, the Golan Heights refers to a basaltic plateau bordered by the Yarmouk River in the south, the Sea of Galilee and Hula Valley in the west, the Anti-Lebanon with Mount Hermon in the north and Wadi Raqqad in the east.
- As a geopolitical region, the Golan Heights refers to the border region captured from Syria by Israel.
- This region includes the western two-thirds of the geological Golan Heights and the Israeli-occupied part of Mount Hermon.
- Israel occupied it in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed the territory, promoting settlement and agriculture there as well as creating a thriving local tourism industry.
- The US was the first country to recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan, which the rest of the international community regards as Israeli-occupied.
- A disengagement agreement between Israel and Syria, signed following the Yom Kippur War of October 1973, established a United Nations buffer zone in the Golan Heights, monitored by a UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF).
Why does Israel want the Golan?
- Security. Israel says that the civil war in Syria demonstrates the need to keep the plateau as a buffer zone between Israeli towns and the instability of its neighbour.
- Israel’s government says it also fears that Iran, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is seeking to establish itself permanently on the Syrian side of the border in order to launch attacks on Israel.
- Both sides covet the Golan’s water resources and naturally fertile soil.
- Syria insists that the part of the Golan held by Israel remains occupied territory and has demanded its return.
Who lives there?
- More than 40,000 people live on the Israeli-occupied Golan, more than half of them Druze residents.
- The Druze are an Arab minority who practice an offshoot of Islam and many of its adherents in Syria have long been loyal to the Assad regime.
- After annexing the Golan, Israel gave the Druze the option of citizenship.
What separates the two sides on the Golan?
- A United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) is stationed in camps and observation posts along the Golan, supported by military observers of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO).
- The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) is a United Nations peacekeeping mission tasked with maintaining the ceasefire between Israel and Syria in the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The mission was established by United Nations Security Council Resolution.
- The United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) is an organization founded on 29 May 1948 for peacekeeping in the Middle East.
- The 1949 Armistice Agreements are a set of armistice agreements signed during 1949 between Israel and neighboring Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria to formally end the official hostilities of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, and establish armistice lines between Israeli forces and Jordanian-Iraqi forces, also known as the Green Line.
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