Archive for the ‘Golan Heights’ Category

Golan Heights – 11 Photos & 56 Reviews – Middle Eastern …

56

Amazing food!!!! I love this place. It’s fresh, clean, and the food is so freakin good!!!!

Absolutely delicious! The laffa is superb. The lamb bacon is the best that I’ve ever had and the potatoes latkes….there are no words to describe. The eggplant is my favorite and the falafel are the best in the city. Yeshiva University! You are sooooo lucky to have Golan Heights right across the street!

The food was okay, but the staff is very rude to it’s customers. I didn’t feel like they wanted me there and I felt pressured to leave the restaurant. I ordered a shawarma and it was a 3/10 in my rating scale. The meat wasn’t very good quality and the vegetables that I added were masking the taste of the food and left my mouth numb for an hour for some reason. I love Israeli food but this is one place I won’t be returning to. I’ll go to some place downtown or in Brooklyn.

Always loved the food here but the way I was treated by person behind the register is just so unprofessional and was so shocking. I called them asking if I can make an order for pickup on the phone since I know parking is very difficult in their area. When I told him what I wanted to order he said that food is ready and doesn’t need to be prepared so it’s not worth his time for me to order it on the phone and immediately hung up on me. I called back stating that I eat there at least once a week and that I would pay over the phone since I’m just trying to avoid getting a parking ticket since there’s no parking. In typical kosher service he told me to go somewhere else. Food is good but you can treat customers like that.

Solid shawarma place in the heights. Nothing else like it in the surrounding neighborhood. Huge portions, delicious food.

Ordered a schwarma in a laffa. The food was fine. The restaurant itself looks disgusting. It is catering to the YU college crowd, so I am sure they are not very discriminating. The tables and floor are old and dirty. There are tons of full black garbage bags and old raincoats near the front door. The bathroom is dingy and old. This place needs a top-to-bottom upgrade. Food was a 4. Restaurant itself is a 1.

The best shawarma outside of Israel! Quick and friendly service, and they fill up the pita for you, not like other places that let you just do it yourself… Food tastes fresh and they have a great selection of salads.

Excellent fare here Recommend the shnitzel sandwich, especially. This is now my favorite falafel place, displacing Cinderella and The Hummus Place.

We tried this Israeli restaurant yesterday in search of Mediterranean food. Restaurant looks very much run down in appearance. Restroom was not clean. But oh dear God, food was delicious. We ordered kufta, flafel, chetzi chetzi and beef shish. And each bit of each dish tasted incredible even though the dishes were very simple in their looks. Beef could have been cooked somewhat more. It is a self-service place. They prepare food rather fast. Seemed a very busy take out place when we visited.

A very good chicken shawarma sandwich ($8-9) with fries inside and a diverse selection of condiments including cabbage, carrots, pickles, wine sauce, hot sauce, green sauce, etc. Great service and a fine place for a quick bite.

The food is pretty good.. No other good kosher options really in the heights. This is the best you’ll get. The prices just got higher over the summer, which isn’t smart especially if you are catering to Jewish college student and Rabbis. I switch off between a couple different things when I go there, but I just found out that one of the items was just price raised about $3 plus tax.. Which is in my opinion stupid because this item is one of the most popular items on the menu. Granted it does come with a soda/water. But it is not a good idea.

I’ve been there few times , I can assure that they’ve one of the best shawarma in Manhattan , I tried it in too many restaurants ( Turkish …etc ) but theirs is so delicious and amazing , I can’t wait to go back there , thanks for this great food .

Hard not to like it. Was here for a basketball tournament and we went here for food. Delicious, large portions. Schwarma is excellent, the sesame chicken poppers are great – just had to eat half the laffa sandwich and save the rest. It’s two meals in one.

Best shwarma outside of Israel! Love it! I can’t wait to be back to the heights to grab some delicious shwarma salad. 🙂

I’m not Jewish but I was recommended to go there with some Orthodox Jewish friends and the place impressed me with the tastiness and freshness of the meats. I’d totally go there again!

Hands down the best falafel pitas ever. I’ve been here numerous times already. Made fresh, tons of veggies to choose from, and all different kinds of sauces that you can put on it. You can get white or whole wheat pita. Veggies include- cucumber-tomato mix, beets, carrots, lettuce, quinoa, onions, eggplant, corn mix, etc. You can have hummus and fries inside your pita or not. Sauces include- tahini, garlic, BBQ, mango, sweet chili, etc. I have also tried their teriyaki chicken and chicken shawarma which are good too. The price is average, and one pita is huge. Its a casual place for eat in or take out.

Service is alright nothing to brag about. Food is actually good when is fresh, but the last time I had a salad it was stale making it the food inconsistent. As far a price it could be more affordable.

Some of the best shawarma I’ve had. The sides and hommas are delicious – and the guy behind the counter is very friendly (and witty). The meals are enough for 2 people to share. If it weren’t such a schlep from my office I’d eat there every day (except Friday when it’s closed in observance of the Sabbath).

Decent food , but this is Arab Palestinian / Syrian food far from Israeli food . But people were very nice . Will be back soon

My go to spot! Best kosher meat place in the area. they’re cheap, delicious, fast food. They are usually open til 2am- best stop for munchies or when you want a hot meal. If you like spicy get zaidys, their garlic mayo is killer! And brisket is crazy good! Laffas are worth the few extra bucks instead of a pita. The fries are yum especially when well done- super crispy! The chulent and chicken soup are the best if you are craving some homey and hearty food.

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Golan Heights – 11 Photos & 56 Reviews – Middle Eastern …

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December 18, 2016   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Hyundai profiting from Israel’s colonization of Golan Heights …

Ryan Rodrick Beiler Rights and Accountability 14 December 2016

Hyundai equipment is used to destroy a home in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina in January 2014.

In September, Israeli forces demolished the home of Bassam Ibrahim. What made his case different from the more than 48,000 such demolitions in territory Israel has occupied since 1967 is that Ibrahim is not Palestinian. He is Syrian.

Ibrahims home in the town of Majdal Shams was the first demolition in the Golan Heights since Israel occupied the Syrian territory following its capture in 1967.

The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the destruction of property by an occupying power except in the case of military necessity.

Equipment manufactured by Hyundai Heavy Industries was used to carry out the demolition.

Headquartered in South Korea, Hyundai is one of the top five heavy equipment manufacturers worldwide. It is not the first time its equipment has been used in Israeli violations of international law.

Under pressure from Palestine Peace and Solidarity, a Korean solidarity group, the company pledged in 2013 to cease dealing with its Israeli distributor, Automotive Equipment Group, stating that its excavators were intended for the private sector, but not for military purposes.

But one year later, Palestine Peace and Solidarity confirmed that Hyundai had resumed distribution through another Israeli company, EFCO, and continued to profit from the use of its machinery in house demolitions and other violations of international law.

The research group Who Profits reports that Hyundai machinery has also been used in the construction and expansion of Israeli settlements, making the companys profits in the region contingent upon land grab, forced displacement and at times even settler or state violence.

The demolition of Bassam Ibrahims home in the Golan followed a pattern similar to those in the occupied West Bank.

According to Al-Marsad, a human rights group in the Golan, hundreds of Israeli police and special forces surrounded the home as it was destroyed on the pretext that it was built without a permit.

Dozens more Syrian-owned homes in the territory have also received demolition orders.

More than 140,000 Syrians lived in the Golan Heights, approximately 1,860 square kilometers, before its capture in 1967. Most were forcibly transferred outside the territory, and only 20,000 remain today.

Discriminatory Israeli policies make it virtually impossible for residents to obtain permits to build or improve their homes. Many have no choice but to build without them.

Syrian communities in the Golan are also being squeezed by Israels expansion of Hermon National Park. Authorities have moved to appropriate 20,000 acres of land used by Majdal Shams and other communities for agriculture and housing.

This expansion would surround these communities to the north and west. Already hemmed in to the east by the militarized boundary with the rest of Syria, this would only leave land in the south for urban expansion. That land is used for agriculture, a main source of livelihood for the local Syrian population, according to al-Marsad.

The number of Jewish settlers in the Golan is now roughly equal to that of the Syrian population.

In October, Israel approved the construction of 1,600 new housing units in Katzrin, the largest settlement in the Golan. It was built on the land of the Syrian villages Qasrin, Shqef and Sanawber, which were depopulated by Israeli forces in 1967.

Israel has capitalized on the ongoing conflict in Syria to seek international recognition of its annexation of the Golan Heights.

These efforts were rebuffed by the UN Security Council, which in April reaffirmed Resolution 497 declaring that Israels annexation of the Golan was null and void and without international legal effect.

Yet since that declaration was made in 1981, Israel has tightened its grip through settlement enterprises such as the Golan Heights Winery and Eden Springs mineral water which exploit the territorys natural resources.

Afek, a subsidiary of US-based Genie Energy, is drilling for oil in the Golan.

Afeks president, Effie Eitam, is a settler living in the Golan Heights and a former general in Israels military.

Genies advisory board includes former US Vice President Dick Cheney, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, as well as former Clinton administration officials: treasury secretary Larry Summers, UN ambassador Bill Richardson and CIA director James Woolsey.

Are also involved in demolitions of Palestinian property.

darn , I was really looking forward to driving a new I 40 but having learned this I could hardly enjoy driving around in a vehicle that was made by a company involved in the oppression of millions of Palestinians.

Looks as if I will have to go back to kicking tires for another while.

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December 14, 2016   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Articles: Israel’s Golan Heights Policies and the Future of …

The Azerbaijani leadership and its Baku-controlled media have remained completely silent on multiple declarations, beginning this past April, regarding the state of Israel’s intent to officially annex the Golan Heights and surrounding areas. Baku should be deeply concerned because the arguments Israel uses to support such annexation pale in contrast with those already in place on the ground in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian-inhabited region that lies between the Republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The Golan Heights

Israel claims Greater Golan was part of ancient Israel, repeats refrains of we will never give it bac, the world must get used to the new reality, and who do we give it back to? None of these hold water in diplomatic circles. However, the reality is that the Golan Heights was captured from Syria in the aftermath of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, and its inhabitants and settlers are subject to Israeli civil and military laws; yet, most importantly, it has remained relatively peaceful.

Negotiations, reported as secret, have taken place between Syria and Israel over the status of the Golan Heights, the latest being sometime in 2010. Negotiations were cut off when Syria plunged into civil war. Israel was willing to return the Golan Heights to Syria in exchange for specific security guarantees, including a demonstration that the Assad government would stop acting as an Iranian proxy. This is significant because it demonstrates that Israel captured Golan, kept it under its jurisdiction, and would indeed return it for strategic security reasons. It is unknown what the fate of its Jewish population will be; perhaps they would return to Israel. Conversely today, a full annexation of Golan, Israel argues, also secures its northeastern border.

Nagorno-Karabakh

The region of Nagorno-Karabakh was arbitrarily placed under Azerbaijani jurisdiction by Stalin in 1921 after it was fought over both politically and militarily during and after WWI. The local population, which had always been majority Armenian by a wide margin, resisted this decision. Just prior to the breakup of the Soviet Union, in December of 1991, the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region (or Oblast, officially designated as such in mid-1923) overwhelmingly voted in favor of not remaining under Azerbaijani jurisdiction in full legal compliance with Soviet law. After declaring independence and fighting a war imposed by Azerbaijan, a truce was negotiated in May 1994. Nagorno-Karabakh has conducted its own affairs ever since then, although aided by the Republic of Armenia. Since 1994, border areas between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan have witnessed persistent periodic shelling, sniper fire, and cross-border attacks.

Negotiations have been ongoing between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Armenia represents the interests of Nagorno-Karabakh because Baku does not recognize the existence of Nagorno-Karabakh as a political entity. Negotiations have been in a permanent stalemate because the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh claim the right of self-determination and Azerbaijan claims inviolability of its international borders.

Land for Peace

The land offered in the case of Nagorno-Karabakh was all but two western areas that connect Nagorno-Karabakh directly with Armenia, releasing the remaining eastern and southern areas to Azerbaijan if the latter recognized the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh. The result would be a people having achieved self-determination.

Historical or biblical arguments do not constitute a legally recognized basis for land claims. Reparatory demands or indigenous self-determination are better arguments, although not sufficient by themselves to unilaterally constitute a change in international political status. Reparatory claims were used to redraw boundaries in post-WWII Europe. Factors in favor of indigenous self-determination are more associated with big power interests. For example, the dismemberment of the Yugoslav Federation eventually resulted in the separation of Kosovo from Serbian jurisdiction, which was designated its own state. Kosovo has only partial international recognition and its legitimacy is not recognized by Serbia, although Serbia has started a process of normalization.

However, today is 2016 and much has changed in the five years since Israel and Syria ended their Golan negotiations. If Israel is successful in officially incorporating the Golan Heights, it would create a precedent for those peoples and regions that are in a state of uncertainty, under pressure from prevailing political forces. Israel’s public relations campaign for a full Golan annexation acceptance is sure to draw attention.

This should surely worry the authorities in Baku who have thus far remained silent. Baku is silent because Israel purchases about half its crude oil supply from Azerbaijan, and Azerbaijan has purchased just under $2B worth of Israeli high technology drones, support infrastructure, and limited manufacturing licensing of additional technologies. This creates a dilemma for official Baku, who call the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh separatists, or worse, while selling crude oil to Israel, which seemingly has less of an international legal basis for the incorporation of the Golan Heights than does Nagorno-Karabakh for its self-determination. During Nagorno-Karabakh negotiations, Azerbaijan might continue to demand jurisdiction over the entire region, but Armenia would note the precedent set in the annexation of the Golan Heights a clear violability of established borders (Bakus central argument) one that Baku never protested.

The accompanied chart provides a relative comparison of arguments used and issues raised with respect to the self-determination of Nagorno-Karabakh and the Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights. The chart is not intended to be exhaustive. The “Advantage” column entries are based on how existing realities contribute to the “Argument” or “Issue. A None means one case has no particular advantage over the other. While not a strict mathematical endeavor, the case of Nagorno-Karabakh appears stronger than that of an official Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights and surrounding lands.

Argument or Issue

Golan Heights (GH)

Nagorno-Karabakh (NK)

Advantage

1

Historical Claim 1

Early as 953 BCE, land of Israel 1

Recently discovered 7000 year old tooth has exact DNA match with todays Armenians of NK 2

NK

2

Historical Claim 2 (currently known)

At least 25 synagogues excavated 1

9+ Forts/Castles 3, 30 Churches/Monasteries 4

NK

3

Population

~50K 5,5.1

~147 (2013) 6

NK

4

Focus population

~20k Jewish 5,5.1

~147K Armenian 6

NK

5

Land area

~1200 15

~4457 7

N/A

6

Population/sq km

42 (total) 21 (Jewish)

34 Armenian

GH

7

Continuous ethnic plurality, last thousand plus years

Jewish, Arab, then Druze (Jewish re-settlement post 1967)

Armenian

NK

8

Not included in expected territory

Not part of 1923 British Palestine Mandate 1

Soviets rescinded Armenian jurisdiction, ordered Azerbaijani jurisdiction over NK in 1921 7

NK

9

Referendum on regions disposition

No. GH was occupied militarily from the 1967 war

Yes. Dec 1991: overwhelmingly in favor of independence from Azerbaijan. Vote was in accordance with USSR law. War fought until May 1994 7.1

NK

10

Israeli or Armenian law extended into regions

Yes. 1981 Knesset enacted the Golan Heights Law extending Israels civil law, jurisdiction and administration8

No. NK has its own laws and constitution 7.1

NK

11

UN resolutions regarding activity

UNSC Res. 497: dismissed Israel’s control of the Golan Heights as illegitimate 9

UNSC Res. 822: withdrawal of local occupying forces from Kelbajar 10

UNSC Res. 853: …calls on withdrawal of local Armenian troops from Agdam 11

UNSC Res. 874: …to implement Security Council resolutions 822 (1993) and 853 (1993)…12

UNSC Res. 884: …Condemns the recent violations of the cease-fire established between the parties … calls upon the Gov’t of Armenia to use its influence to achieve compliance by NagornoKarabakhArmenians13

NK

12

International Recognition

None

(Non-state) New South Wales, Basque Parliament, various US states

NK

13

Unilateral associated state recognition

Israel: Yes, stated its annexation intention on April 2016 14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22

Armenia: No. NK declared independence September 2, 19916

NK

14

Declaring international community recognize new reality

Israel regarding Golan in 201614

Armenia in support of NK

None

15

Abandon fixation with artificial borders drawn a century ago

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December 8, 2016   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Israeli forces kill 4 Islamic State allies in Golan Heights …

JERUSALEM Israeli forces engaged in a brief but deadly fight Sunday against Syrian militiamen allied with the Islamic State, killing four militants in the fraught borderlands of the Golan Heights.

It was the first substantial fight between Israeli soldiers and ISIS affiliates in the long-running Syrian war, said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israel military spokesman. No Israelis were injured.

Although there have been dozens of cases of errant and intentional artillery, mortar and small-arms fire from Syria toward Israeli-controlled territory in the occupied Golan Heights, this exchange involved the group known as the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade, whose leaders publicly pledged their allegiance to Islamic State in 2014.

About 9 a.m. local time, a reconnaissance unit from Israels Golani Brigade was patrolling along the cease-fire line, the military said, outside the Israeli-built fence. The Israeli troops were confronted by the Syrian militants, who deployed small arms and mortars. The Israelis responded, according to the military spokesman.

The Israeli air force spotted a vehicle armed with a heavy machine gun and destroyed it with a rocket, killing four occupants, Israel said.

Israel has pledged to stay out of the Syrian conflict but has also vowed that it will respond to any threats made against Israelis in the Golan Heights.

Earlier this year, the State Department designated the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade a global terrorist entity. The group is composed of local clans in southern Syria. Israeli military intelligence officers say there are few, if any, outsiders or foreign fighters in its ranks.

The Yarmouk brigade was formed in 2012 and has staged attacks throughout southern Syria, often along the Israeli and Jordanian borders, the State Department said.

In 2013, the group abducted 25 Filipino U.N. peacekeepers who patrol the disputed border between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights. The peacekeepers were eventually released.

The group has fought both alongside and against the rebels in the Nusra Front. Earlier this year, the militants changed the name of their brigade and allied with another group also affiliated with ISIS.

Nitzan Nuriel, former director of the counterterrorism bureau at the prime ministers office, said he did not think the attack against the Israeli soldiers represents a new ISIS-directed offensive against Israel.

I think the decision to open fire against our soldiers was a local decision, he said. It was not something ordered by a high command.

Nuriel said Israels response was appropriate and repeated the message, Dont mess with us.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commended the troops. “We are prepared against any enemy that threatens us on our northern border, he said.

Israel essentially annexed the Golan Heights in 1981 when it extended Israeli civil law vs. military rule to the territory it seized from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War.

The international community, including the United States, has never recognized Israels annexation of the heights and views the area as Syrian territory occupied by Israel.

In April, Netanyahu declared that Israel will retain forever full control of the mountainous plateau and will never return the strategic highlands to neighboring Syria.

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November 27, 2016   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Golan Heights Winery – Wikipedia

The Golan Heights Winery (Hebrew: ) is an Israeli winery located in Katzrin, built on the site of an agricultural village from the Mishnaic period in the Golan Heights. It is Israel’s third largest winery.[2] In 2012, Golan Heights Winery was named New World Winery of the Year by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.[3]

The Golan Heights Winery is jointly owned by eight Israeli settlementsmoshavim and kibbutzim, which also supply the grapes. Its first vintage was released in 1984. Production in 2008 reached 6 million bottles a year, 30% of which was exported.[4]

The Golan Heights winery markets brands under the Golan, Yarden and Gamla labels and is the parent company of Galilee’s Galil Mountain Winery. Golan sources its grapes from sixteen vineyards in the Golan Heights and one vineyard in the Upper Galilee. The chief winemaker is Napa native Victor Schoenfeld.[5]

The winery employs 110 people and incorporates sophisticated technology using pneumatic membrane presses, must chiller and computer-controlled cooling of stainless steel tanks. The winery also has an elaborate “experimental winery” for research and quality control of new wines and improvement of existing lines.[6]

Traditional vinification techniques include barrel-fermented Chardonnay, Methode traditionelle sparkling wines, carbonic maceration for light reds and maturation in French and American oak barrels for premium red and white wines.[6]

The Golan Heights Winery is credited with starting the “quality revolution” in Israeli wine, creating a brand identity for the country’s vintages, spurring the creation of new wineries and motivating existing wineries to improve the quality of their wines. Michal Neeman, director of the Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute’s food and beverage division, describes the role of the winery as crucial: “Everyone agrees that they were the first winery to produce excellent wine. Then came the boutique wineries, then the medium-sized, and then the large ones. There were a lot of other factors as well, but when you pinpoint the revolution, it started at Golan Heights.”[1]

In partnership with Entav of France, the winery is developing disease-resistant clones and the worlds first insect-free mother block and nursery.[7]

A number of Golan Heights wines were marketed by Systembolaget, Sweden’s state-owned monopoly alcohol retailer, as “Made in Israel” on shelves and in the sales catalogue. Following customer complaints and consultation with Sweden’s foreign ministry, Systembolaget changed the shelf labelling to read, “Made in Israeli-occupied Syrian territories.”[8] However this prompted complaints from Annelie Enochson and officials in Israel.[8][9] Systembolaget’s solution was to remove all reference to the product’s country of origin on shelves and in catalogues, classifying the wine as of “other origins.”[10]

The winery has won worldwide acclaim and awards at the most prestigious festivals, including wine shows in France.[11] Golan Heights Winery was named Best Foreign Winery at the Prague Trophy 2008 international wine competition. At a ceremony on January 16, 2009, the winery received the award after winning seven medals at the competition.[12] In 2011, Golan Heights Winery won the Gran Vinitaly Special Award as the best wine producer at the 19th International Vinitaly Wine Competition in Italy. The winery earned two Grand Gold Medals for its 2009 Yarden Chardonnay Odem Organic Vineyard and its 2008 Yarden HeightsWine.[13] Its 2004 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon was the first wine from Israel to be listed on the Wine Spectator Top 100.

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November 17, 2016   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Golan Heights Law – Wikipedia

The Golan Heights Law is the Israeli law which applies Israel’s government and laws to the Golan Heights. It was ratified by the Knesset on December 14, 1981. The law was not recognised internationally[1] and determined null and void by United Nations Security Council Resolution 497.[2][3]

The law was passed half a year before Israel’s withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula. Unusually, all three readings took place on the same day. This procedure was heavily criticized by the centre-left opposition. Substantially, the law has mainly been criticized for potentially hindering future negotiations with Syria.

While the Israeli public at large, and especially the law’s critics, viewed it as an annexation, the law avoids the use of the word. Prime Minister Menachem Begin responded to Amnon Rubinstein’s criticism by saying, “You use the word ‘annexation.’ I do not use it,” and noting that similar wording was used in a 1967 law authorizing the government to apply Israeli law to any part of the Land of Israel. The earlier law covered only those areas included in the British Mandate, requiring a separate law for the Golan Heights (these were included in the French Mandate of Syria).

The three broad provisions in the Golan Heights Law are the following:[4]

1. “The Law, jurisdiction and administration of the State will take effect in the Golan Heights, as described in the Schedule.”

2. “This Law will begin taking effect on the day of its acceptance in the Knesset.”

3. “The Minister of the Interior is placed in-charge of the implementation of this Law, and is entitled, in consultation with the Minister of Justice, to enact regulations for its implementation and to formulate regulations on interim provisions regarding the continued application of regulations, directives, administrative directives, and rights and duties that were in effect in the Golan Heights prior to the acceptance of this Law.”

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Golan Heights – Wikipedia

The Golan Heights (Arabic: Habatu ‘l-Jawln or Murtafatu l-Jawln, Hebrew: , Ramat HaGolan (audio)(helpinfo)), or simply the Golan or the Syrian Golan,[3] is a region in the Levant. The western two-thirds of the Golan Heights are currently occupied and administrated by Israel,[1][2] whereas the eastern third is controlled by Syria, with the UNDOF maintaining a buffer zone in between, to implement the ceasefire of the Purple Line.

The exact region defined as the Golan Heights is different in different disciplines:

The earliest evidence of human habitation dates to the Upper Paleolithic period.[4] According to the Bible, an Amorite Kingdom in Bashan was conquered by Israelites during the reign of King Og.[5] Throughout the Old Testament period, the Golan was “the focus of a power struggle between the Kings of Israel and the Aramaeans who were based near modern-day Damascus.”[6] The Itureans, an Arab or Aramaic people, settled there in the 2nd century BCE and remained until the end of the Byzantine period.[7][8][9] Organized Jewish settlement in the region came to an end in 636 CE when it was conquered by Arabs under Umar ibn al-Khattb.[10] In the 16th century, the Golan was conquered by the Ottoman Empire and was part of the Vilayet of Damascus until it was transferred to French control in 1918. When the mandate terminated in 1946, it became part of the newly independent Syrian Arab Republic.

Internationally recognized as Syrian territory, the Golan Heights has been occupied and administered by Israel since 1967.[1] It was captured during the 1967 Six-Day War, establishing the Purple Line.[11]

On 19 June 1967, the Israeli cabinet voted to return the Golan to Syria in exchange for a peace agreement, although this was rejected after the Khartoum Resolution of 1 September 1967.[12][13] In the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, in which Syria tried but failed to recapture the Golan, Israel agreed to return about 5% of the territory to Syrian civilian control. This part was incorporated into a demilitarised zone that runs along the ceasefire line and extends eastward. This strip is under the military control of UNDOF.

Construction of Israeli settlements began in the remainder of the territory held by Israel, which was under military administration until Israel passed the Golan Heights Law extending Israeli law and administration throughout the territory in 1981.[14] This move was condemned by the United Nations Security Council in UN Resolution 497,[2][15] which said that “the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect.” Israel states it has a right to retain the Golan, citing the text of UN Resolution 242, which calls for “safe and recognised boundaries free from threats or acts of force”.[16] However, the international community reject Israeli claims to title to the territory and regards it as sovereign Syrian territory.[1][18] That said, the atrocities of the Syrian Civil War and the rise of the so-called Islamic State group, which at times has controlled what was the Syrian-administered Golan have added a new twist to the issue.[19] In 2015, it was reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked US President Barack Obama to recognize Israeli claims to the territory because of these recent ISIS actions and the fact that modern Syria has likely “disintegrated” beyond the point of reunification.[20][21] The White House dismissed Netenyahu’s suggestion, stating that the president continues to support UN resolutions 242 and 497, and any alterations of this policy could strain American alliances with western-backed Syrian rebel groups.[22]

Historically, Israeli Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak, and Ehud Olmert each stated that they were willing to exchange the Golan for peace with Syria. Later, in 2010, Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman told Syria to abandon its dreams of recovering the Golan Heights.[23] Approximately 10% of Syrian Golan Druze have accepted Israeli citizenship.[24] According to the CIA World Factbook, as of 2010[update], “there are 41 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.”[25]

Arabic names are Jawln[26] and Djolan (Arabic: ).[27] In the Bible, Golan is mentioned as a city of refuge located in Bashan: Deuteronomy 4:43, Joshua 20:8, 1Chronicles 6:71.[28] Nineteenth-century authors interpreted the word “Golan” (Hebrew: ) as meaning “something surrounded, hence a district”.[29][30] The Greek name for the region is Gaulanitis (Greek: ).[26] In the Mishna the name is Gabln similar to Aramaic language names for the region: Gawlna, Guwlana and Gubln.[26]

Arab cartographers of the Byzantine period referred to the area as jabal (mountain), though the region is a plateau.[31] The Muslims took over in 7th century CE.[26] The 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia refers to the region as Gaulonitis.[32] The name Golan Heights was not used before the 19th century.[28]

The Golan Heights borders Israel, Lebanon, and Jordan. According to Israel, it has captured 1,150 square kilometres (440sqmi).[33] According to Syria the Golan Heights measures 1,860 square kilometres (718sqmi), of which 1,500km2 (580sqmi) are occupied by Israel.[34] According to the CIA, Israel holds 1,300 square kilometres (500sqmi).[25]

The area is hilly and elevated, overlooking the Jordan Rift Valley which contains the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River, and is itself dominated by the 2,743.2 metres (9,000ft) tall Mount Hermon.[35] The plateau has an average altitude of 1,000 metres (3,300ft) and an area totaling 1,800 square kilometres (690sqmi), and straddles the boundary between Syria and Israeli-held territory. Elevations range from 2,814 metres (9,232ft) in the north (if one considers Mount Hermon as part of the Heights), to below sea level along the Sea of Galilee and the Yarmuk River in the south.[25]

The plateau that Israel controls is part of a larger area of volcanic basalt fields stretching north and east that were created in the series of volcanic eruptions that began recently in geological terms, almost 4 million years ago, and continue to this day. It has distinct geographic boundaries. On the north, the Sa’ar valley (Banias) generally divides the lighter-colored limestone bedrock of the mountains from the dark-colored volcanic rocks of the Golan plateau. The western border of the plateau is truncated structurally by the Jordan Rift Valley, which falls down steeply into the lake. The southern border is lined by the Yarmuk River, which separates the plateau from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Finally, the east end of Golan Heights is carved out by the Raqqad river (Wadi Ruqqad) and areas still controlled by Syria.[36]

The plateau’s north-south length is approximately 65 kilometres (40mi) and its east-west width varies from 12 kilometres (7.5mi) to 25 kilometres (16mi).[37][38]Topographically, the Golan Heights ranges in elevation from 2,814 metres (9,232ft) on Mount Hermon in the north, to about 400 metres (1,300ft) elevation along the Yarmuk River in the south. The Sea of Galilee, also known as Lake Kinneret or Lake Tiberias, at the southwest corner of the plateau is 200 metres (660ft) below sea level. The steeper, more rugged topography is generally limited to the northern half, including the foothills of Mount Hermon; on the south the plateau is more level.[37]

The broader Golan plateau exhibits a more subdued topography, generally ranging between 120 metres (390ft) and 520 metres (1,710ft) in elevation. In Israel, the Golan plateau is divided into three regions: northern (between the Sa’ar and Jilabun valleys), central (between the Jilabun and Daliyot valleys), and southern (between the Daliyot and Yarmouk valleys). The Golan Heights is bordered on the west by a rock escarpment that drops 500 metres (1,600ft) to the Jordan River valley and the Sea of Galilee. In the south, the incised Yarmouk River valley marks the limits of the plateau and, east of the abandoned railroad bridge upstream of Hamat Gader and Al Hammah, it marks the recognised international border between Syria and Jordan.[39]

Geologically, the Golan plateau and the Hauran plain to the east constitute a Holocene volcanic field that also extends northeast almost to Damascus. Much of the area is scattered with dormant volcanos, as well as cinder cones, such as Majdal Shams. The plateau also contains a crater lake, called Birkat Ram (“Ram Pool”), which is fed by both surface runoff and underground springs. These volcanic areas are characterised by basalt bedrock and dark soils derived from its weathering. The basalt flows overlie older, distinctly lighter-colored limestones and marls, exposed along the Yarmouk River in the south.

The rock forming the mountainous area in the northern Golan Heights, descending from Mount Hermon, differs geologically from the volcanic rocks of the plateau and has a different physiography. The mountains are characterised by lighter-colored, Jurassic-age limestone of sedimentary origin. Locally, the limestone is broken by faults and solution channels to form a karst-like topography in which springs are common.

In addition to its strategic military importance, the Golan Heights is an important water resource, especially at the higher elevations, which are snow-covered in the winter and help sustain baseflow for rivers and springs during the dry season. The heights receive significantly more precipitation than the surrounding, lower-elevation areas. The occupied sector of the Golan Heights provides or controls a substantial portion of the water in the Jordan River watershed, which in turn provides a portion of Israel’s water supply. The Golan Heights supply 15% of Israel’s water.[40]

The Venus of Berekhat Ram, a stone figure from the Lower Paleolithic era, found in the Golan Heights, may have been created by Homo erectus between 700,000 and 230,000 BCE.[41]

In the 3rd millennium BC the Amorites inhabited the Golan until it was conquered in the 2nd millennium by the Arameans. The Aramaean city state Aram Damascus reached over most of Golan to the Sea of Galilee.[42]

According to the Bible, the Children of Israel conquered the Golan from the Amorites.[5] The Bible also says that the area, known as Bashan, was inhabited by two Israelite tribes during the time of Joshua, the tribe of Dan[43] and Manasseh. The city of Golan was a city of refuge. King Solomon appointed ministers in the region.[44] After the split of the United Monarchy, the area was contested between the northern Kingdom of Israel and the Aramean kingdom from the 9th century BC. King Ahab of Israel (reigned 874852 BC) defeated Ben-Hadad I in Afek of the southern Golan.

In the 8th century BC the Assyrians gained control of the area, followed by the Babylonian and the Persian Empire. In the 5th century BC, the Persian Empire allowed the region to be resettled by returning Jewish exiles from Babylonian Captivity.

The Golan Heights, along with the rest of the region, came under the control of Alexander the Great in 332 BC, following the Battle of Issus. Following Alexander’s death, the Golan came under the domination of the Macedonian noble Seleucus and remained part of the Seleucid Empire for most of the next two centuries. It is during this period that the name Golan, previously that of a city mentioned in the book of Deuteronomy, came to be applied to the entire region (Greek: Gaulanitis).

After the Assyrian period, about four centuries provide limited archaeological finds in the Golan.[45] In the middle of the 2nd century BCE, Itureans started living in the Golan.[9] They lived in over 100 locations in the Mount Hermon and Golan region.[46]

The Maccabean revolt saw much action in the regions around the Golan and it is possible that the Jewish communities of the Golan were among those rescued by Judas Maccabeus during his campaign in the Galilee and Gilead (Transjordan) mentioned in Chapter 5 of 1 Maccabees. The Golan, however, remained in Seleucid hands until the campaign of Alexander Jannaeus from 8380 BC. Jannaeus established the city of Gamla in 81 BC as the Hasmonean capital for the region.

During the Roman and Byzantine periods the area was administered as part of Phoenicia Prima and Syria Palaestina, and finally Golan/Gaulanitis was included together with Peraea[31] in Palaestina Secunda, after 218 AD.[26] Ancient kingdom Bashan was incorporated into the province of Batanea.[47]

Following the death of Herod the Great in 4 BC, Augustus Caesar adjudicated that the Golan fell within the Tetrarchy of Herod’s son, Herod Philip I. After Philip’s death in 34 AD, the Romans absorbed the Golan into the province of Syria, but Caligula restored the territory to Herod’s grandson Agrippa in 37. Following Agrippa’s death in 44, the Romans again annexed the Golan to Syria, promptly to return it again when Claudius traded the Golan to Agrippa II, the son of Agrippa I, in 51 as part of a land swap. Although nominally under Agrippa’s control and not part of the province of Judea, the Jewish communities of the Golan joined their coreligionists in the First Jewish-Roman War, only to fall to the Roman armies in its early stages. Gamla was captured in 67; according to Josephus, its inhabitants committed mass suicide, preferring it to crucifixion and slavery. Agrippa II contributed soldiers to the Roman war effort and attempted to negotiate an end to the revolt. In return for his loyalty, Rome allowed him to retain his kingdom, but finally absorbed the Golan for good after his death in 100.

In about 250, the Ghassanids, Arab Christians from Yemen, established a kingdom which encompassed southern Syria and the Transjordan, building their capital at Jabiyah on the Golan. Like the later Herodians, the Ghassanids ruled as clients of Byzantine Rome; unlike the Herodians, the Ghassanids were able to hold on to the Golan until the Sassanid invasion of 614. Following a brief restoration under the Emperor Heraclius, the Golan again fell, this time to the invading Arabs after the Battle of Yarmouk in 636.

After Yarmouk, Muawiyah I, a member of Muhammad’s tribe, the Quraish, was appointed governor of Syria, including the Golan. Following the assassination of his cousin, the Caliph Uthman, Muawiya claimed the Caliphate for himself, initiating the Umayyad dynasty. Over the next few centuries, while remaining in Muslim hands, the Golan passed through many dynastic changes, falling first to the Abbasids, then to the Shi’ite Fatimids, then to the Seljuk Turks, then to the Kurdish Ayyubids. During the Crusades, the Heights represented a formidable obstacle the Crusader armies were not able to conquer, and the area was a part of the Emirate of Damascus during this time.[48][49] The Mongols swept through in 1259, but were driven off by the Mamluk sultan Qutuz at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260. Ain Jalut ensured Mamluk dominance of the region for the next 250years. For many centuries nomadic tribes lived together with the sedentary population in the region. At times, the central government attempted to settle the nomads which would result in the establishment of permanent communities. When the power of the governing regime declined, as happened during the early Muslim period, nomadic trends increased and many of the rural and agricultural villages were abandoned due to harassment from the Bedouins. They were not resettled until the second half of the 19th century.[50]

In the 16th century, the Ottoman Turks conquered Syria. During this time, the Golan formed part of the southern district of their empire. Some Druze communities were established in the Golan during the 17th and 18th centuries.[51] In 1868, the region was described as “almost entirely desolate.” According to a travel handbook of the time, only 11 of 127 ancient towns and villages in the Golan were inhabited.[52] As a result of the Russo-Turkish War of 187778, there was a huge influx of refugees from the Caucasus into the empire. The Ottomans encouraged them to settle in southern Syria, particularly the Golan Heights, by granting them land with a 12-year tax exemption.[53][54][55][56]

In 1884 there were still open stretches of uncultivated land between villages in the lower Golan, but by the mid-1890s most was owned and cultivated.[57] Some land had been purchased in the Golan and Hawran by Zionist associations based in Romania, Bulgaria, the USA and England, in the late 19th century and early 20th century.[58] In 1880, Laurence Oliphant published Eretz ha-Gilad (The Land of Gilead), which described a plan for large-scale Jewish settlement in the Golan.[59] In the winter of 1885, members of the Old Yishuv in Safed formed the Beit Yehuda Society and purchased 15,000 dunams of land from the village of Ramthaniye in the central Golan.[60] Due to financial hardships and the long wait for a kushan (Ottoman land deed) the village, Golan be-Bashan, was abandoned after a year. Soon afterwards, the society regrouped and purchased 2,000 dunams of land from the village of Bir e-Shagum on the western slopes of the Golan.[61] The village they established, Bnei Yehuda, existed until 1920.[62][63] The last families left in the wake of the Passover riots of 1920.[60] In 1944 the JNF bought the Bnei Yehuda lands from their Jewish owners, but a later attempt to establish Jewish ownership of the property in Bir e-Shagum through the courts was not successful.[62]

Between 1891 and 1894, Baron Edmond James de Rothschild purchased around 150,000 dunams of land in the Golan and the Hawran for Jewish settlement.[60] Legal and political permits were secured and ownership of the land was registered in late 1894.[60]

The Agudat Ahim society, whose headquarters were in Yekatrinoslav, Russia, acquired 100,000 dunams of land in several locations in the districts of Fiq and Daraa. A plant nursery was established and work began on farm buildings in Djillin.[60] The Jews also built a road stretching from Lake Hula to Muzayrib.[62] A village called Tiferet Binyamin was established on lands purchased from Saham al-Jawlan by the Shavei Zion Association based in New York,[58] but the project was abandoned after a year when the Turks issued an edict in 1896 evicting the 17 non-Turkish families. A later attempt to resettle the site with Syrian Jews who were Ottoman citizens also failed.[64] Between 1904 and 1908, a group of Crimean Jews settled in the Bethsaida Valley, initially as tenants of a Kurdish proprietor with the prospects of purchasing the land, but the arrangement faltered.[65][66] Jewish settlement in the region dwindled over time, due to Arab hostility, Turkish bureaucracy, disease and economic difficulties.[67] In 19211930, during the French Mandate, the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association (PICA) obtained the deeds to the Rothschild estate and continued to manage it, collecting rents from the Arab peasants living there.[62]

Great Britain accepted a Mandate for Palestine at the meeting of the Allied Supreme Council at San Remo, but the borders of the territory were not defined at that stage.[68][69] The boundary between the forthcoming British and French mandates was defined in broad terms by the Franco-British Boundary Agreement of December 1920.[70] That agreement placed the bulk of the Golan Heights in the French sphere. The treaty also established a joint commission to settle the precise details of the border and mark it on the ground.[70] The commission submitted its final report on 3 February 1922, and it was approved with some caveats by the British and French governments on 7 March 1923, several months before Britain and France assumed their Mandatory responsibilities on 29 September 1923.[71][72] In accordance with the same process, a nearby parcel of land that included the ancient site of Tel Dan and the Dan spring were transferred from Syria to Palestine early in 1924. The Golan Heights, including the spring at Wazzani and the one at Banias, thus became part of the French Mandate of Syria, while the Sea of Galilee was placed entirely within the British Mandate of Palestine. When the French Mandate of Syria ended in 1944, the Golan Heights became part of the newly independent state of Syria and was later incorporated into Quneitra Governorate.

After the 194849 Arab-Israeli War, the Golan Heights were partly demilitarised by the Israel-Syria Armistice Agreement. During the following years, the area along the border witnessed thousands of violent incidents; the armistice agreement was being violated by both sides. The underlying causes of the conflict were a disagreement over the legal status of the demilitarised zone (DMZ), cultivation of land within it and competition over water resources. Syria claimed that neither party had sovereignty over the DMZ. Israel contended that the Armistice Agreement dealt solely with military concerns and that she had political and legal rights over the DMZ. Israel wanted to assert control up till the 1923 boundary in order to reclaim the Hula swamp, gain exclusive rights to Lake Galilee and divert water from the Jordan for its National Water Carrier. During the 1950s, Syria registered two principal territorial accomplishments: it took over Al-Hammah enclosure south of Lake Tiberias and established a de facto presence on and control of eastern shore of the lake.[73][74]

The Jordan Valley Unified Water Plan was sponsored by the United States and agreed by the technical experts of the Arab League and Israel.[75] The U.S.A funded the Israeli and Jordanian water diversion projects, when they pledged to abide by the plan’s allocations.[76] President Nasser too, assured the U.S.A, that the Arabs would not exceed the plan’s water quotas.[77] However, in the early 1960s the Arab League funded a Syrian water diversion project that would have denied Israel use of a major portion of its water allocation.[78] The resulting armed clashes are called the War over Water.[79]

in July 1966,[80]Fatah began raids into Israeli territory in early 1965, with active support from Syria. At first the militants entered via Lebanon or Jordan, but those countries made concerted attempts to stop them and raids directly from Syria increased.[81] Israel’s response was a series of retaliatory raids, of which the largest were an attack on the Jordanian village of Samu in November 1966.[82] In April 1967, after Syria heavily shelled Israeli villages from the Golan Heights, Israel shot down six Syrian MiG fighter planes and warned Syria against future attacks.[81][83]

In the period between the first Arab-Israeli War and the Six-Day War, the Syrians constantly harassed Israeli border communities by firing artillery shells from their dominant positions on the Golan Heights.[84][85] In October 1966 Israel brought the matter up before the United Nations. Five nations sponsored a resolution criticizing Syria for its actions but it failed to pass due to a Soviet veto.[86][87][88]

Former Israeli General Mattityahu Peled said that more than half of the border clashes before the 1967 war “were a result of our security policy of maximum settlement in the demilitarised area.”[89] Israeli incursions into the zone were responded to with Syrians shooting. Israel in turn would retaliate with military force.[73] Sir Alec Douglas-Home, former Prime Minister of the UK, stated that when he was visiting the Galilee a few months before the 1967 war “at regular intervals the Russian-built forts on the Golan Heights used to lob shells into the villages, often claiming civilian casualties.” He said after the 1973 war that any agreement between the two sides “must clearly put a stop the that kind of offensive action.”[90]

In 1976, Israeli defense minister Moshe Dayan said that Israel provoked more than 80% of the clashes with Syria, although historians say the remark was part of an informal conversation.[91] The provocation was sending a tractor to plow in the demilitarized areas. The Syrians responded by firing at the tractors and shelling Israeli settlements.[92][93] Jan Mhren, a former UN observer in the area at the time, told a Dutch current affairs programme that Israel “provoked most border incidents as part of its strategy to annex more land”.[94] UN officials blamed both Israel and Syria for destabilizing the borders.[95]

After the Six-Day War broke out in June 1967, Syria’s shelling greatly intensified and the Israeli army captured the Golan Heights on 910 June. The area which came under Israeli control as a result of the war consists of two geologically distinct areas: the Golan Heights proper, with a surface of 1,070 square kilometres (410sqmi) and the slopes of the Mt. Hermon range, with a surface of 100 square kilometres (39sqmi). The new ceasefire line was named the Purple Line. In the battle, Israel lost 115 men, with another 306 wounded. An estimated 2,500 Syrians were killed, with another 5,000 wounded.[96]

During the war, between 80,000[97] and 131,000[98] Syrians fled or were driven from the heights and around 7,000 remained in the Israeli-occupied territory.[98] Israeli sources and the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants reported that much of the local population of 100,000 fled as a result of the war, whereas the Syrian government stated that a large proportion of it was expelled.[99] Israel has not allowed former residents to return, citing security reasons.[100] The remaining villages were Majdal Shams, Shayta (later destroyed), Ein Qiniyye, Mas’ade, Buq’ata and, outside the Golan proper, Ghajar.

Israeli settlement in the Golan began soon after the war. Merom Golan was founded in July 1967 and by 1970 there were 12 settlements.[101]

In the 1970s, Israeli politician Yigal Allon proposed as part of the Allon Plan that a Druze state be established in Syria’s Quneitra Governorate, including the Israeli-held Golan Heights. Allon died in 1980 and his plan never materialised.[102]

During the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Syrian forces overran much of the southern Golan, before being pushed back by an Israeli counterattack. Israel and Syria signed a ceasefire agreement in 1974 that left almost all the Heights in Israeli hands. East of the 1974 ceasefire line lies the Syrian controlled part of the Heights, an area that was not captured by Israel (500 square kilometres or 190 sq mi) or withdrawn from (100 square kilometres or 39 sq mi). This area forms 30% of the Golan Heights.[103] Today it contains more than 40 Syrian towns and villages. In 1975, following the 1974 ceasefire agreement, Israel returned a narrow demilitarised zone to Syrian control. Some of the displaced residents began returning to their homes located in this strip and the Syrian government began helping people rebuild their villages, except for Quneitra. In the mid-1980s the Syrian government launched a plan called “The Project for the Reconstruction of the Liberated Villages”.[citation needed] By the end of 2007, the population of the Quneitra Governorate was estimated at 79,000.[104] Mines deployed by the Syrian army remain active. As of 2003, there had been at least 216 landmine casualties in the Syrian-controlled Golan since 1973, of which 108 were fatalities.[105]

The Golan Heights was under Israeli military administration from 1967 to 1981. In 1981, Israel passed the Golan Heights Law,[14] which applied Israeli “laws, jurisdiction and administration” to the Golan Heights. Although the law in effect annexed the territory to Israel, it did not explicitly spell out the formal annexation.[106] The area is administered as part of Israel’s North District. Israel’s action was not recognised internationally[107] and United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 which declared the Golan Heights Israeli-occupied territory continues to apply. Israel maintains that it may retain the area as the text of Resolution 242 calls for “safe and recognised boundaries free from threats or acts of force”.[16]

During the negotiations regarding the text of United Nations Security Council resolution 242, U.S. Secretary of State Rusk explained that U.S. support for secure permanent frontiers did not mean the US supported territorial changes.[108] The U.N. representative for the United Kingdom who was responsible for negotiating and drafting the Security Council resolution said that the actions of the Israeli Government in establishing settlements and colonizing the Golan are in clear defiance of Resolution 242.[109]

Syria continued to demand a full Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders, including a strip of land on the east shore of the Sea of Galilee that Syria captured during the 194849 Arab-Israeli War and occupied from 194967. Successive Israeli governments have considered an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan in return for normalization of relations with Syria, provided certain security concerns are met. Prior to 2000, Syrian president Hafez al-Assad rejected normalization with Israel.

During United Statesbrokered negotiations in 19992000, Israel and Syria discussed a peace deal that would include Israeli withdrawal in return for a comprehensive peace structure, recognition and full normalization of relations. The disagreement in the final stages of the talks was on access to the Sea of Galilee. Israel offered to withdraw to the pre-1948 border (the 1923 Paulet-Newcombe line), while Syria insisted on the 1967 frontier. The former line has never been recognised by Syria, claiming it was imposed by the colonial powers, while the latter was rejected by Israel as the result of Syrian aggression. The difference between the lines is less than 100m for the most part, but the 1967 line would give Syria access to the Sea of Galilee, and Israel wished to retain control of the Sea of Galilee, its only freshwater lake and a major water resource.[110] Dennis Ross, Clinton’s chief Middle East negotiator, blamed “cold feet” on the part of Barak for the breakdown.[111] Clinton also laid blame on Israel.[112]

In June 2007, it was reported that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had sent a secret message to Syrian President, Bashar Assad saying that Israel would concede the land in exchange for a comprehensive peace agreement and the severing of Syria’s ties with Iran and militant groups in the region.[113] On the same day, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the former Syrian President, Hafez Assad, had promised to let Israel retain Mount Hermon in any future agreement.[114]

In April 2008, Syrian media reported Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoan told President Bashar al-Assad that Israel would withdraw from the Golan Heights in return for peace.[115][116] Israeli leaders of communities in the Golan Heights held a special meeting and stated: “all construction and development projects in the Golan are going ahead as planned, propelled by the certainty that any attempt to harm Israeli sovereignty in the Golan will cause severe damage to state security and thus is doomed to fail”.[117] A survey found that 70% of Israelis oppose relinquishing the Golan for peace with Syria.[118] That year, a plenary session of the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution 1611 in favour of a motion on the Golan Heights that reaffirmed Security Council resolution 497 and called on Israel to desist from “changing the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan and, in particular, to desist from the establishment of settlements [and] from imposing Israeli citizenship and Israeli identity cards on the Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan and from its repressive measures against the population of the occupied Syrian Golan.” Israel was the only nation to vote against the resolution.[119] Indirect talks broke down after the Gaza War began. Syria broke off the talks to protest Israeli military operations. Israel subsequently appealed to Turkey to resume mediation.[120]

In May 2009, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that returning the Golan Heights would turn it into “Iran’s front lines which will threaten the whole state of Israel.”[121][122] He said: “I remember the Golan Heights without Katzrin, and suddenly we see a thriving city in the Land of Israel, which having been a gem of the Second Temple era has been revived anew.”[123] American diplomat Martin Indyk said that the 19992000 round of negotiations began during Netanyahu’s first term (19961999), and he was not as hardline as he made out.[124]

In March 2009, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad claimed that indirect talks had failed after Israel did not commit to full withdrawal from the Golan Heights. In August 2009, he said that the return of the entire Golan Heights was “non-negotiable,” it would remain “fully Arab,” and would be returned to Syria.[125]

In June 2009, Israeli President Shimon Peres said that Syrian President Assad would have to negotiate without preconditions, and that Syria would not win territorial concessions from Israel on a “silver platter” while it maintained ties with Iran and Hezbollah.[126] In response, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem demanded that Israel unconditionally cede the Golan Heights “on a silver platter” without any preconditions, adding that “it is our land,” and blamed Israel for failing to commit to peace. Syrian President Assad claimed that there was “no real partner in Israel.”[127]

In 2010, Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman said: “We must make Syria recognise that just as it relinquished its dream of a greater Syria that controls Lebanon … it will have to relinquish its ultimate demand regarding the Golan Heights”[23]

Claims on the territory include the fact that an area in northwestern of the Golan region, delineated by a rough triangle formed by the towns of Banias, Quneitra and the northern tip of the Sea of Galilee, was part of the British Palestine Mandate in which the establishment of a Jewish national home had been promised.[128] In 1923, this triangle in northwestern Golan was ceded to the French Mandate in Syria, but in exchange for this, land areas in Syria and Lebanon was ceded to Palestine, and the whole of the Sea of Galilee which previously had its eastern boundary connected to Syria was placed inside Palestine.[129] Syrians counter that the region was placed in the Vilayet of Damascus as part of Syria under the Ottoman boundaries and that the 1920 British-Franco agreement which had placed part of the Golan under the control of Britain was only temporary and that the final border line drawn up in 1923, which excluded the Golan triangle, had superseded it,[128] although Syria has never recognised the 1923 border as legally binding.

One of the aspects of the dispute involves the existence prior to 1967 of three different lines separating Syria from the area that between 1948 and 1967 was referred to as Mandatory Palestine.

The 1923 boundary between British Mandatory Palestine and the French Mandate of Syria was drawn with water in mind.[130] Accordingly, it was demarcated so that all of the Sea of Galilee, including a 10-meter wide strip of beach along its northeastern shore, would stay inside Mandatory Palestine. From the Sea of Galilee north to Lake Hula the boundary was drawn between 50 and 400 meters east of the upper Jordan River, keeping that stream entirely within Mandatory Palestine. The British also received a sliver of land along the Yarmouk River, out to the present-day Hamat Gader.[131]

During the Arab-Israeli War, Syria captured various areas of the formerly British controlled Mandatory Palestine, including the 10-meter strip of beach, the east bank of the upper Jordan, as well as areas along the Yarmouk.

While negotiating the 1949 Armistice Agreements, Israel called for the removal of all Syrian forces from the former Palestine territory. Syria refused, insisting on an armistice line based not on the 1923 international border but on the military status quo. The result was a compromise. Under the terms of an armistice signed on 20 July 1949, Syrian forces were to withdraw east of the old Palestine-Syria boundary. Israeli forces were to refrain from entering the evacuated areas, which would become a demilitarised zone, “from which the armed forces of both Parties shall be totally excluded, and in which no activities by military or paramilitary forces shall be permitted.”[132] Accordingly, major parts of the armistice lines departed from the 1923 boundary and protruded into Israel. There were three distinct, non-contiguous enclavesin the extreme northeast to the west of Banias, on the west bank of the Jordan River near Lake Hula, and the eastern-southeastern shores of the Sea of Galilee extending out to Hamat Gader, consisting of 66.5 square kilometres (25.7sqmi) of land lying between the 1949 armistice line and the 1923 boundary, forming the demilitarised zone.[130]

Following the armistice, both Israel and Syria sought to take advantage of the territorial ambiguities left in place by the 1949 agreement. This resulted in an evolving tactical situation, one “snapshot” of which was the disposition of forces immediately prior to the Six-Day War, the line of June 4, 1967.[130]

On 7 June 2000, the demarcation Blue Line was established by the UN in order to ensure full Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, according to UN Security Council Resolution 425. After Israeli troops left Lebanese soil, the UN announced the resolution had been respected. However, Lebanon continues to claim a small portion of the area occupied by Israel and administered as part of the Golan Heights. The territory, known as the Shebaa Farms, measures 22 square kilometres (8.5sqmi) and lies on the border between Lebanon and the Golan Heights. Maps used by the UN in demarcating the Blue Line were not able to conclusively show the border between Lebanon and Syria in the area. Syria agrees that the Shebaa Farms are within Lebanese territory; however, Israel considers the area to be inside of Syria’s borders and continues to occupy the territory.[133][134][135]

Al Ghajar village is another complex border issue west of Shebaa farms. Before the 1967 war this Alawite village was in Syria. It is divided by an international boundary, with the northern part of the village on the Lebanese side since 2000. Residents of both parts hold Israeli citizenship, and in the northern part often a Lebanese passport as well. Today the entire village is surrounded by a fence, with no division between the Israeli-occupied and Lebanese sides. There is an Israeli army checkpoint at the entrance to the village from the rest of the Golan Heights.[135]

In 1975, U.S. President Gerald Ford wrote a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin stating that the U.S. had not developed a final position on the borders but once it had, it would give great weight to Israel’s position that a peace agreement with Syria must be predicated on Israel remaining on the Golan Heights.[136]

In 1991, U.S. Secretary of State James Baker told Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir that the United States would honor the position expressed in Ford’s letter. William B. Quandt speculates that Baker told Syrian President Hafez al-Assad that the United States did not recognize Israel’s annexation of the Golan and thought that UN Resolution 242 should apply there.[137]

The United States considers the Golan Heights to be Syrian territory held under Israeli occupation subject to negotiation and Israeli withdrawal. The United States considers the application of Israeli law to the Golan Heights to be a violation of international law, both the Fourth Geneva Convention’s prohibition on the acquisition of territory by force and United Nations Security Council Resolution 242.[22][138]

UNDOF (the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force) was established in 1974 to supervise the implementation of the Agreement on Disengagement and maintain the ceasefire with an area of separation known as the UNDOF Zone. Currently there are more than 1,000 UN peacekeepers there trying to sustain a lasting peace. Details of the UNDOF mission, mandate, map and military positions can be accessed via the following United Nations link.[139] Syria and Israel still contest the ownership of the Heights but have not used overt military force since 1974. The great strategic value of the Heights both militarily and as a source of water means that a deal is uncertain. Members of the UN Disengagement force are usually the only individuals who cross the Israeli-Syrian de facto border (cease fire “Alpha Line”), but since 1988 Israel has allowed Druze pilgrims to cross into Syria to visit the shrine of Abel on Mount Qasioun. Since 1967, Druze brides have been allowed to cross into Syria, although they do so in the knowledge that they may not be able to return.

Though the cease fire in the UNDOF zone has been largely uninterrupted since the seventies, in 2012 there have been repeated violations from the Syrian side, including tanks[140] and live fire,[141] though these incidents are attributed to the ongoing Syrian civil war rather than intentionally directed towards Israel.[142]

The population of the Golan Heights prior to the 1967 Six-Day War has been estimated between 130,000 and 145,000, including 17,000 Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA.[143] Between 80,000[97] and 130,000[98] Syrians fled or were driven from the heights during the Six-Day War and around 7,000 remained in the Israeli-held territory in six villages: Majdal Shams, Mas’ade, Buq’ata, Ein Qiniyye, Ghajar and Shayta.[98]

Israel demolished over one hundred Syrian villages and farms in the Golan Heights.[144][145] After the demolitions, the lands were given to Israeli settlers.[146]

Quneitra was the largest town in the Golan Heights until 1967, with a population of 27,000. It was occupied by Israel on the last day of the Six-Day War and handed back to Syrian civil control per the 1974 Disengagement Agreement. But the Israelis had destroyed Quneitra with dynamite and bulldozers before they withdrew from the city.[147][148] East of the 1973 ceasefire line, in the Syrian controlled part of the Golan Heights, an area of 600 square kilometres (232sqmi), are more than 40 Syrian towns and villages, including Quneitra, Khan Arnabah, al-Hamidiyah, al-Rafid, al-Samdaniyah, al-Mudariyah, Beer Ajam, Bariqa, Ghadir al-Bustan, Hadar Juba, Kodana, Ufaniyah, Ruwayhinah, Nabe al-Sakhar, Trinjah, Umm al-Azam, and Umm Batna. The population of the Quneitra Governorate numbers 79,000.[104]

In the late 1970s, the Israeli government offered all non-Israelis living in the Golan citizenship, but until the early 21st century fewer than 10% of the Druze were Israeli citizens; the remainder held Syrian citizenship.[149] The Golan Alawites in the village of Ghajar accepted Israeli citizenship in 1981.[150] In 2012, due to the situation in Syria, young Druze have applied to Israeli citizenship in much larger numbers than in previous years.[151]

In 2012, there were 20,000 Druze with Syrian citizenship living in the Israeli-occupied portion Golan Heights.[152]

The Druze living in the Golan Heights are permanent residents of Israel. They hold laissez-passers issued by the Israeli government, and enjoy the country’s social welfare benefits.[153] The pro-Israeli Druze were historically ostracized by the pro-Syrian Druze.[154] Reluctance to accept citizenship also reflects fear of ill treatment or displacement by Syrian authorities should the Golan Heights eventually be returned to Syria.[155] According to The Independent, most Druze in the Golan Heights live relatively comfortable lives in a freer society than they would have in Syria under Assad’s government.[156] According to Egypt’s Daily Star, their standard of living vastly surpasses that of their counterparts on the Syrian side of the border. Hence their fear of a return to Syria, though most of them identify themselves as Syrian,[157] but feel alienated from the “autocratic” government in Damascus. According to the Associated Press, “many young Druse have been quietly relieved at the failure of previous Syrian-Israeli peace talks to go forward.”[158] On the other hand, expressing pro-Syrian rhetoric, The Economist found, represents the Golan Druzes’ view that by doing so they may be potentially rewarded by Syria, while simultaneously risking nothing in Israel’s freewheeling society. The Economist likewise reported that “Some optimists see the future Golan as a sort of Hong Kong, continuing to enjoy the perks of Israels dynamic economy and open society, while coming back under the sovereignty of a stricter, less developed Syria.” The Druze are also reportedly well-educated and relatively prosperous, and have made use of Israel’s universities.[159]

Since 1988, Druze clerics have been permitted to make annual religious pilgrimages to Syria. Since 2005, Israel has allowed Druze farmers to export some 11,000 tons of apples to the rest of Syria each year, constituting the first commercial relations between Syria and Israel.[158]

Since the breakout of the Syrian Civil War in 2012, the number of applications for Israeli citizenship is growing, although Syrian loyalty remains strong and those who apply for citizenship are often ostracized by members of the older generation.[160]

Israeli settlement activity began in the 1970s. The area was governed by military administration until 1981 when Israel passed the Golan Heights Law, which extended Israeli law and administration throughout the territory.[14] This move was condemned by the United Nations Security Council in UN Resolution 497,[2][15] although Israel states it has a right to retain the area, citing the text of UN Resolution 242, adopted after the Six-Day War, which calls for “safe and recognised boundaries free from threats or acts of force”.[16] The continued Israeli control of the Golan Heights remains highly contested and is still regarded as belligerent occupation by most countries. The international community rejects the validity of the Golan Heights Law as an attempted annexation by force, illegal under the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions.[161] Israeli settlements and human rights policy in the occupied territory have also drawn criticism from the UN.[162][163]

The Israeli-occupied territory is administered by the Golan Regional Council, based in Katzrin, which has a population of 6,400. There another 19 moshavim and 10 kibbutzim. In 1989, the settler population was 10,000.[164] By 2010 the Jewish settler population had expanded to 20,000[165] living in 32 settlements.[166][167]

The Golan Heights features numerous archeological sites, mountains, streams and waterfalls. Throughout the region 62 ancient synagogues have been found dating back to the Roman and Byzantine periods.[168]

Kursi is the ruins of a Byzantine Christian monastery.

Katzrin is the administrative and commercial center of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Katzrin Ancient Village is an archaeological site on the outskirts of Katzrin where the remains of a Talmud-era village and synagogue have been reconstructed.[169]Golan Archaeological Museum hosts archaeological finds uncovered in the Golan Heights from prehistoric times. A special focus concerns Gamla and excavations of synagogues and Byzantine churches.[170]

Golan Heights Winery, a major Israeli winery, and the mineral water plant of Mey Eden, which derives its water from the spring of Salukiya in the Golan. One can tour these factories as well as factories of oil products and fruit products.

Two open air strip malls, one which holds the Kesem ha-Golan (Golan Magic), a three-dimensional movie and model of the geography and history of the Golan Heights.

Gamla Nature Reserve is an open park with the archaeological remains of the ancient Jewish city of Gamla including a tower, wall and synagogue. It is also the site of a large waterfall, an ancient Byzantine church, and a panoramic spot to observe the nearly 100 vultures that dwell in the cliffs. Israeli scientists study the vultures and tourists can watch them fly and nest.[171]

Rujm el-Hiri is a large circular stone monument similar to Stonehenge. Excavations since 1968 have not uncovered material remains common to archaeological sites in the region. Archaeologists believe the site may have been a ritual center linked to a cult of the dead.[172] A 3D model of the site exists in the Museum of Golan Antiquities in Katzrin.

Um el Kanatir is another impressive set of standing ruins of a Jewish village of the Byzantine era. The site includes a very large synagogue and two arches next to a natural spring.[173]

The Nimrod Fortress was built against the Crusaders, served the Ayyubids and Mamluks, and was captured only once, in 1260, by the Mongols. It is now located inside a nature reserve.

A ski resort on the slopes of Mount Hermon features a wide range of ski trails and activities. Several restaurants are located in the area. The Lake Ram crater lake is nearby.

Hamat Gader is site of natural hot mineral springs with temperatures reaching 50C (122F). Hamat Gader was already used for recreation and healing purposes during Roman times. The site includes a Roman theatre, which was built in the 3rd century CE and contained 2,000 seats. A large synagogue was built in the 5th century CE.

Hippos is an ancient Greco-Roman city, known in Jewish Aramaic as Susita. The archaeological site includes excavations of the city’s forum, the small imperial cult temple, a large Hellenistic temple compound, the Roman city gates, and two Byzantine churches.

On a visit to Israel and the Golan Heights in 1972, Cornelius Ough, a professor of viticulture and oenology at the University of California, Davis, pronounced conditions in the Golan very suitable for the cultivation of wine grapes.[174] A consortium of four kibbutzim and four moshavim took up the challenge, clearing 250 burnt-out tanks in the Golan’s Valley of Tears to plant vineyards for what would eventually become the Golan Heights Winery.[175] The first vines were planted in 1976, and the first wine was released by the winery in 1983.[174] The heights are now home to about a dozen wineries.[176]

In the early 1990s, the Israel National Oil Company (INOC) was granted shaft-sinking permits in the Golan Heights. It estimated a recovery potential of two million barrels of oil, equivalent at the time to $24 million. During the Yitzhak Rabin administration (19921995), the permits were suspended as efforts were undertaken to restart peace negotiations between Israel and Syria. In 1996, Benjamin Netanyahu granted preliminary approval to INOC to proceed with oil exploration drilling in the Golan.[177][178][179] INOC began undergoing a process of privatization in 1997, overseen by then-Director of the Government Companies Authority (GCA), Tzipi Livni. During that time, it was decided that INOC’s drilling permits would be returned to the state.[180][181] In 2012, National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau approved exploratory drilling for oil and natural gas in the Golan.[182] The following year, the Petroleum Council of Israel’s Ministry of Energy and Water Resources secretly awarded a drilling license covering half the area of the Golan Heights to a local subsidiary of New Jersey-based Genie Energy Ltd. headed by Effi Eitam.[183][184]

Human rights groups have said the drilling violates international law as Golan Heights is an occupied territory.[185]

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October 14, 2016   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Israel targets Syrian artillery after projectile lands in …

The IDF said it was the third projectile to have crossed from Syria into the Golan this week, including one Sunday and another Wednesday. No injuries were reported in any of the incidents.

The Israeli military said it holds the Syrian government “accountable for this blatant breach of Israeli sovereignty. The IDF will continue to act in order to safeguard Israel and its civilians.”

The international community considers the Golan Heights to be occupied territory and Israeli settlement-building there to be illegal. Syria wants the return of the territory that UN peacekeeping forces have monitored for decades.

According to foreign reports, Israel has conducted numerous strikes in Syria and Lebanon, destroying weapons shipments intended for the militant group Hezbollah. But no Israeli leader had every publicly acknowledged that these strikes occurred.

Netanyahu said the presence of ancient synagogues in the Golan Heights showed that the territory, with a population of about 50,000, had been “an integral part of the Land of Israel since ancient times,” and that it remained an integral part of modern Israel.

The Israeli military said its forces targeted the area, describing the inhabitants as “part of the terror cell responsible for the rocket fire at northern Israel ” It did not say how many people were killed in the attack in al Qom in Quneitra.

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Israel targets Syrian artillery after projectile lands in …

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September 10, 2016   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Golan Heights – Haaretz

U.S. House won’t vote on gun control at least until September, official says (Reuters)

Death toll of Italian train crash rises to 20, officials say (Reuters)

Austria to seize Hitler’s birthplace to prevent it from becoming Nazi pilgrimage site (Reuters)

UN: Intesified fighting cuts off humanitarian aid passage to rebel-held part of Aleppo, Syria (AP)

Iranian central bank, U.S. Treasury, international banks to meet, U.K. official says (Reuters)

Death toll rises in Italy train crash to at least a dozen, firefighters say (AP)

2 trains collide in southern Italy; at least 4 dead, dozens injured (AP)

At least 36,000 people have fled from South Sudan capital of Juba, UN says (Reuters)

Israeli forces arrest 10 wanted Palestinians in West Bank city of Qalqilya (Haaretz)

Dozens wait at Jerusalem Old City gate to enter Temple Mt with family of slain teenager (Haaretz)

Car bomb kills nine north of Baghdad (Reuters)

Australian convicted of recruiting 6 men to fight in Syria (AP)

Suspect in Michigan courthouse shooting was an inmate who took gun from officer (Reuters)

Israel passes contentious ‘NGO bill’ into law (Haaretz)

Michigan governor says courthouse secured after shots fired (AP)

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Golan Heights – Haaretz

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July 6, 2016   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Golan Heights – 11 Photos & 56 Reviews – Middle Eastern …

56 Amazing food!!!! I love this place. It’s fresh, clean, and the food is so freakin good!!!! Absolutely delicious! The laffa is superb. The lamb bacon is the best that I’ve ever had and the potatoes latkes….there are no words to describe. The eggplant is my favorite and the falafel are the best in the city. Yeshiva University! You are sooooo lucky to have Golan Heights right across the street! The food was okay, but the staff is very rude to it’s customers. I didn’t feel like they wanted me there and I felt pressured to leave the restaurant. I ordered a shawarma and it was a 3/10 in my rating scale. The meat wasn’t very good quality and the vegetables that I added were masking the taste of the food and left my mouth numb for an hour for some reason. I love Israeli food but this is one place I won’t be returning to. I’ll go to some place downtown or in Brooklyn. Always loved the food here but the way I was treated by person behind the register is just so unprofessional and was so shocking. I called them asking if I can make an order for pickup on the phone since I know parking is very difficult in their area. When I told him what I wanted to order he said that food is ready and doesn’t need to be prepared so it’s not worth his time for me to order it on the phone and immediately hung up on me. I called back stating that I eat there at least once a week and that I would pay over the phone since I’m just trying to avoid getting a parking ticket since there’s no parking. In typical kosher service he told me to go somewhere else. Food is good but you can treat customers like that. Solid shawarma place in the heights. Nothing else like it in the surrounding neighborhood. Huge portions, delicious food. Ordered a schwarma in a laffa. The food was fine. The restaurant itself looks disgusting. It is catering to the YU college crowd, so I am sure they are not very discriminating. The tables and floor are old and dirty. There are tons of full black garbage bags and old raincoats near the front door. The bathroom is dingy and old. This place needs a top-to-bottom upgrade. Food was a 4. Restaurant itself is a 1. The best shawarma outside of Israel! Quick and friendly service, and they fill up the pita for you, not like other places that let you just do it yourself… Food tastes fresh and they have a great selection of salads. Excellent fare here Recommend the shnitzel sandwich, especially. This is now my favorite falafel place, displacing Cinderella and The Hummus Place. We tried this Israeli restaurant yesterday in search of Mediterranean food. Restaurant looks very much run down in appearance. Restroom was not clean. But oh dear God, food was delicious. We ordered kufta, flafel, chetzi chetzi and beef shish. And each bit of each dish tasted incredible even though the dishes were very simple in their looks. Beef could have been cooked somewhat more. It is a self-service place. They prepare food rather fast. Seemed a very busy take out place when we visited. A very good chicken shawarma sandwich ($8-9) with fries inside and a diverse selection of condiments including cabbage, carrots, pickles, wine sauce, hot sauce, green sauce, etc. Great service and a fine place for a quick bite. The food is pretty good.. No other good kosher options really in the heights. This is the best you’ll get. The prices just got higher over the summer, which isn’t smart especially if you are catering to Jewish college student and Rabbis. I switch off between a couple different things when I go there, but I just found out that one of the items was just price raised about $3 plus tax.. Which is in my opinion stupid because this item is one of the most popular items on the menu. Granted it does come with a soda/water. But it is not a good idea. I’ve been there few times , I can assure that they’ve one of the best shawarma in Manhattan , I tried it in too many restaurants ( Turkish …etc ) but theirs is so delicious and amazing , I can’t wait to go back there , thanks for this great food . Hard not to like it. Was here for a basketball tournament and we went here for food. Delicious, large portions. Schwarma is excellent, the sesame chicken poppers are great – just had to eat half the laffa sandwich and save the rest. It’s two meals in one. Best shwarma outside of Israel! Love it! I can’t wait to be back to the heights to grab some delicious shwarma salad. 🙂 I’m not Jewish but I was recommended to go there with some Orthodox Jewish friends and the place impressed me with the tastiness and freshness of the meats. I’d totally go there again! Hands down the best falafel pitas ever. I’ve been here numerous times already. Made fresh, tons of veggies to choose from, and all different kinds of sauces that you can put on it. You can get white or whole wheat pita. Veggies include- cucumber-tomato mix, beets, carrots, lettuce, quinoa, onions, eggplant, corn mix, etc. You can have hummus and fries inside your pita or not. Sauces include- tahini, garlic, BBQ, mango, sweet chili, etc. I have also tried their teriyaki chicken and chicken shawarma which are good too. The price is average, and one pita is huge. Its a casual place for eat in or take out. Service is alright nothing to brag about. Food is actually good when is fresh, but the last time I had a salad it was stale making it the food inconsistent. As far a price it could be more affordable. Some of the best shawarma I’ve had. The sides and hommas are delicious – and the guy behind the counter is very friendly (and witty). The meals are enough for 2 people to share. If it weren’t such a schlep from my office I’d eat there every day (except Friday when it’s closed in observance of the Sabbath). Decent food , but this is Arab Palestinian / Syrian food far from Israeli food . But people were very nice . Will be back soon My go to spot! Best kosher meat place in the area. they’re cheap, delicious, fast food. They are usually open til 2am- best stop for munchies or when you want a hot meal. If you like spicy get zaidys, their garlic mayo is killer! And brisket is crazy good! Laffas are worth the few extra bucks instead of a pita. The fries are yum especially when well done- super crispy! The chulent and chicken soup are the best if you are craving some homey and hearty food.

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December 18, 2016   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Hyundai profiting from Israel’s colonization of Golan Heights …

Ryan Rodrick Beiler Rights and Accountability 14 December 2016 Hyundai equipment is used to destroy a home in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina in January 2014. In September, Israeli forces demolished the home of Bassam Ibrahim. What made his case different from the more than 48,000 such demolitions in territory Israel has occupied since 1967 is that Ibrahim is not Palestinian. He is Syrian. Ibrahims home in the town of Majdal Shams was the first demolition in the Golan Heights since Israel occupied the Syrian territory following its capture in 1967. The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the destruction of property by an occupying power except in the case of military necessity. Equipment manufactured by Hyundai Heavy Industries was used to carry out the demolition. Headquartered in South Korea, Hyundai is one of the top five heavy equipment manufacturers worldwide. It is not the first time its equipment has been used in Israeli violations of international law. Under pressure from Palestine Peace and Solidarity, a Korean solidarity group, the company pledged in 2013 to cease dealing with its Israeli distributor, Automotive Equipment Group, stating that its excavators were intended for the private sector, but not for military purposes. But one year later, Palestine Peace and Solidarity confirmed that Hyundai had resumed distribution through another Israeli company, EFCO, and continued to profit from the use of its machinery in house demolitions and other violations of international law. The research group Who Profits reports that Hyundai machinery has also been used in the construction and expansion of Israeli settlements, making the companys profits in the region contingent upon land grab, forced displacement and at times even settler or state violence. The demolition of Bassam Ibrahims home in the Golan followed a pattern similar to those in the occupied West Bank. According to Al-Marsad, a human rights group in the Golan, hundreds of Israeli police and special forces surrounded the home as it was destroyed on the pretext that it was built without a permit. Dozens more Syrian-owned homes in the territory have also received demolition orders. More than 140,000 Syrians lived in the Golan Heights, approximately 1,860 square kilometers, before its capture in 1967. Most were forcibly transferred outside the territory, and only 20,000 remain today. Discriminatory Israeli policies make it virtually impossible for residents to obtain permits to build or improve their homes. Many have no choice but to build without them. Syrian communities in the Golan are also being squeezed by Israels expansion of Hermon National Park. Authorities have moved to appropriate 20,000 acres of land used by Majdal Shams and other communities for agriculture and housing. This expansion would surround these communities to the north and west. Already hemmed in to the east by the militarized boundary with the rest of Syria, this would only leave land in the south for urban expansion. That land is used for agriculture, a main source of livelihood for the local Syrian population, according to al-Marsad. The number of Jewish settlers in the Golan is now roughly equal to that of the Syrian population. In October, Israel approved the construction of 1,600 new housing units in Katzrin, the largest settlement in the Golan. It was built on the land of the Syrian villages Qasrin, Shqef and Sanawber, which were depopulated by Israeli forces in 1967. Israel has capitalized on the ongoing conflict in Syria to seek international recognition of its annexation of the Golan Heights. These efforts were rebuffed by the UN Security Council, which in April reaffirmed Resolution 497 declaring that Israels annexation of the Golan was null and void and without international legal effect. Yet since that declaration was made in 1981, Israel has tightened its grip through settlement enterprises such as the Golan Heights Winery and Eden Springs mineral water which exploit the territorys natural resources. Afek, a subsidiary of US-based Genie Energy, is drilling for oil in the Golan. Afeks president, Effie Eitam, is a settler living in the Golan Heights and a former general in Israels military. Genies advisory board includes former US Vice President Dick Cheney, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, as well as former Clinton administration officials: treasury secretary Larry Summers, UN ambassador Bill Richardson and CIA director James Woolsey. Are also involved in demolitions of Palestinian property. darn , I was really looking forward to driving a new I 40 but having learned this I could hardly enjoy driving around in a vehicle that was made by a company involved in the oppression of millions of Palestinians. Looks as if I will have to go back to kicking tires for another while.

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December 14, 2016   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Articles: Israel’s Golan Heights Policies and the Future of …

The Azerbaijani leadership and its Baku-controlled media have remained completely silent on multiple declarations, beginning this past April, regarding the state of Israel’s intent to officially annex the Golan Heights and surrounding areas. Baku should be deeply concerned because the arguments Israel uses to support such annexation pale in contrast with those already in place on the ground in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian-inhabited region that lies between the Republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan. The Golan Heights Israel claims Greater Golan was part of ancient Israel, repeats refrains of we will never give it bac, the world must get used to the new reality, and who do we give it back to? None of these hold water in diplomatic circles. However, the reality is that the Golan Heights was captured from Syria in the aftermath of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, and its inhabitants and settlers are subject to Israeli civil and military laws; yet, most importantly, it has remained relatively peaceful. Negotiations, reported as secret, have taken place between Syria and Israel over the status of the Golan Heights, the latest being sometime in 2010. Negotiations were cut off when Syria plunged into civil war. Israel was willing to return the Golan Heights to Syria in exchange for specific security guarantees, including a demonstration that the Assad government would stop acting as an Iranian proxy. This is significant because it demonstrates that Israel captured Golan, kept it under its jurisdiction, and would indeed return it for strategic security reasons. It is unknown what the fate of its Jewish population will be; perhaps they would return to Israel. Conversely today, a full annexation of Golan, Israel argues, also secures its northeastern border. Nagorno-Karabakh The region of Nagorno-Karabakh was arbitrarily placed under Azerbaijani jurisdiction by Stalin in 1921 after it was fought over both politically and militarily during and after WWI. The local population, which had always been majority Armenian by a wide margin, resisted this decision. Just prior to the breakup of the Soviet Union, in December of 1991, the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region (or Oblast, officially designated as such in mid-1923) overwhelmingly voted in favor of not remaining under Azerbaijani jurisdiction in full legal compliance with Soviet law. After declaring independence and fighting a war imposed by Azerbaijan, a truce was negotiated in May 1994. Nagorno-Karabakh has conducted its own affairs ever since then, although aided by the Republic of Armenia. Since 1994, border areas between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan have witnessed persistent periodic shelling, sniper fire, and cross-border attacks. Negotiations have been ongoing between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Armenia represents the interests of Nagorno-Karabakh because Baku does not recognize the existence of Nagorno-Karabakh as a political entity. Negotiations have been in a permanent stalemate because the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh claim the right of self-determination and Azerbaijan claims inviolability of its international borders. Land for Peace The land offered in the case of Nagorno-Karabakh was all but two western areas that connect Nagorno-Karabakh directly with Armenia, releasing the remaining eastern and southern areas to Azerbaijan if the latter recognized the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh. The result would be a people having achieved self-determination. Historical or biblical arguments do not constitute a legally recognized basis for land claims. Reparatory demands or indigenous self-determination are better arguments, although not sufficient by themselves to unilaterally constitute a change in international political status. Reparatory claims were used to redraw boundaries in post-WWII Europe. Factors in favor of indigenous self-determination are more associated with big power interests. For example, the dismemberment of the Yugoslav Federation eventually resulted in the separation of Kosovo from Serbian jurisdiction, which was designated its own state. Kosovo has only partial international recognition and its legitimacy is not recognized by Serbia, although Serbia has started a process of normalization. However, today is 2016 and much has changed in the five years since Israel and Syria ended their Golan negotiations. If Israel is successful in officially incorporating the Golan Heights, it would create a precedent for those peoples and regions that are in a state of uncertainty, under pressure from prevailing political forces. Israel’s public relations campaign for a full Golan annexation acceptance is sure to draw attention. This should surely worry the authorities in Baku who have thus far remained silent. Baku is silent because Israel purchases about half its crude oil supply from Azerbaijan, and Azerbaijan has purchased just under $2B worth of Israeli high technology drones, support infrastructure, and limited manufacturing licensing of additional technologies. This creates a dilemma for official Baku, who call the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh separatists, or worse, while selling crude oil to Israel, which seemingly has less of an international legal basis for the incorporation of the Golan Heights than does Nagorno-Karabakh for its self-determination. During Nagorno-Karabakh negotiations, Azerbaijan might continue to demand jurisdiction over the entire region, but Armenia would note the precedent set in the annexation of the Golan Heights a clear violability of established borders (Bakus central argument) one that Baku never protested. The accompanied chart provides a relative comparison of arguments used and issues raised with respect to the self-determination of Nagorno-Karabakh and the Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights. The chart is not intended to be exhaustive. The “Advantage” column entries are based on how existing realities contribute to the “Argument” or “Issue. A None means one case has no particular advantage over the other. While not a strict mathematical endeavor, the case of Nagorno-Karabakh appears stronger than that of an official Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights and surrounding lands. Argument or Issue Golan Heights (GH) Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) Advantage 1 Historical Claim 1 Early as 953 BCE, land of Israel 1 Recently discovered 7000 year old tooth has exact DNA match with todays Armenians of NK 2 NK 2 Historical Claim 2 (currently known) At least 25 synagogues excavated 1 9+ Forts/Castles 3, 30 Churches/Monasteries 4 NK 3 Population ~50K 5,5.1 ~147 (2013) 6 NK 4 Focus population ~20k Jewish 5,5.1 ~147K Armenian 6 NK 5 Land area ~1200 15 ~4457 7 N/A 6 Population/sq km 42 (total) 21 (Jewish) 34 Armenian GH 7 Continuous ethnic plurality, last thousand plus years Jewish, Arab, then Druze (Jewish re-settlement post 1967) Armenian NK 8 Not included in expected territory Not part of 1923 British Palestine Mandate 1 Soviets rescinded Armenian jurisdiction, ordered Azerbaijani jurisdiction over NK in 1921 7 NK 9 Referendum on regions disposition No. GH was occupied militarily from the 1967 war Yes. Dec 1991: overwhelmingly in favor of independence from Azerbaijan. Vote was in accordance with USSR law. War fought until May 1994 7.1 NK 10 Israeli or Armenian law extended into regions Yes. 1981 Knesset enacted the Golan Heights Law extending Israels civil law, jurisdiction and administration8 No. NK has its own laws and constitution 7.1 NK 11 UN resolutions regarding activity UNSC Res. 497: dismissed Israel’s control of the Golan Heights as illegitimate 9 UNSC Res. 822: withdrawal of local occupying forces from Kelbajar 10 UNSC Res. 853: …calls on withdrawal of local Armenian troops from Agdam 11 UNSC Res. 874: …to implement Security Council resolutions 822 (1993) and 853 (1993)…12 UNSC Res. 884: …Condemns the recent violations of the cease-fire established between the parties … calls upon the Gov’t of Armenia to use its influence to achieve compliance by NagornoKarabakhArmenians13 NK 12 International Recognition None (Non-state) New South Wales, Basque Parliament, various US states NK 13 Unilateral associated state recognition Israel: Yes, stated its annexation intention on April 2016 14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22 Armenia: No. NK declared independence September 2, 19916 NK 14 Declaring international community recognize new reality Israel regarding Golan in 201614 Armenia in support of NK None 15 Abandon fixation with artificial borders drawn a century ago

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December 8, 2016   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Israeli forces kill 4 Islamic State allies in Golan Heights …

JERUSALEM Israeli forces engaged in a brief but deadly fight Sunday against Syrian militiamen allied with the Islamic State, killing four militants in the fraught borderlands of the Golan Heights. It was the first substantial fight between Israeli soldiers and ISIS affiliates in the long-running Syrian war, said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israel military spokesman. No Israelis were injured. Although there have been dozens of cases of errant and intentional artillery, mortar and small-arms fire from Syria toward Israeli-controlled territory in the occupied Golan Heights, this exchange involved the group known as the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade, whose leaders publicly pledged their allegiance to Islamic State in 2014. About 9 a.m. local time, a reconnaissance unit from Israels Golani Brigade was patrolling along the cease-fire line, the military said, outside the Israeli-built fence. The Israeli troops were confronted by the Syrian militants, who deployed small arms and mortars. The Israelis responded, according to the military spokesman. The Israeli air force spotted a vehicle armed with a heavy machine gun and destroyed it with a rocket, killing four occupants, Israel said. Israel has pledged to stay out of the Syrian conflict but has also vowed that it will respond to any threats made against Israelis in the Golan Heights. Earlier this year, the State Department designated the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade a global terrorist entity. The group is composed of local clans in southern Syria. Israeli military intelligence officers say there are few, if any, outsiders or foreign fighters in its ranks. The Yarmouk brigade was formed in 2012 and has staged attacks throughout southern Syria, often along the Israeli and Jordanian borders, the State Department said. In 2013, the group abducted 25 Filipino U.N. peacekeepers who patrol the disputed border between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights. The peacekeepers were eventually released. The group has fought both alongside and against the rebels in the Nusra Front. Earlier this year, the militants changed the name of their brigade and allied with another group also affiliated with ISIS. Nitzan Nuriel, former director of the counterterrorism bureau at the prime ministers office, said he did not think the attack against the Israeli soldiers represents a new ISIS-directed offensive against Israel. I think the decision to open fire against our soldiers was a local decision, he said. It was not something ordered by a high command. Nuriel said Israels response was appropriate and repeated the message, Dont mess with us. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commended the troops. “We are prepared against any enemy that threatens us on our northern border, he said. Israel essentially annexed the Golan Heights in 1981 when it extended Israeli civil law vs. military rule to the territory it seized from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War. The international community, including the United States, has never recognized Israels annexation of the heights and views the area as Syrian territory occupied by Israel. In April, Netanyahu declared that Israel will retain forever full control of the mountainous plateau and will never return the strategic highlands to neighboring Syria. Read more Todays coverage from Post correspondents around the world Like Washington Post World on Facebook and stay updated on foreign news

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November 27, 2016   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Golan Heights Winery – Wikipedia

The Golan Heights Winery (Hebrew: ) is an Israeli winery located in Katzrin, built on the site of an agricultural village from the Mishnaic period in the Golan Heights. It is Israel’s third largest winery.[2] In 2012, Golan Heights Winery was named New World Winery of the Year by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.[3] The Golan Heights Winery is jointly owned by eight Israeli settlementsmoshavim and kibbutzim, which also supply the grapes. Its first vintage was released in 1984. Production in 2008 reached 6 million bottles a year, 30% of which was exported.[4] The Golan Heights winery markets brands under the Golan, Yarden and Gamla labels and is the parent company of Galilee’s Galil Mountain Winery. Golan sources its grapes from sixteen vineyards in the Golan Heights and one vineyard in the Upper Galilee. The chief winemaker is Napa native Victor Schoenfeld.[5] The winery employs 110 people and incorporates sophisticated technology using pneumatic membrane presses, must chiller and computer-controlled cooling of stainless steel tanks. The winery also has an elaborate “experimental winery” for research and quality control of new wines and improvement of existing lines.[6] Traditional vinification techniques include barrel-fermented Chardonnay, Methode traditionelle sparkling wines, carbonic maceration for light reds and maturation in French and American oak barrels for premium red and white wines.[6] The Golan Heights Winery is credited with starting the “quality revolution” in Israeli wine, creating a brand identity for the country’s vintages, spurring the creation of new wineries and motivating existing wineries to improve the quality of their wines. Michal Neeman, director of the Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute’s food and beverage division, describes the role of the winery as crucial: “Everyone agrees that they were the first winery to produce excellent wine. Then came the boutique wineries, then the medium-sized, and then the large ones. There were a lot of other factors as well, but when you pinpoint the revolution, it started at Golan Heights.”[1] In partnership with Entav of France, the winery is developing disease-resistant clones and the worlds first insect-free mother block and nursery.[7] A number of Golan Heights wines were marketed by Systembolaget, Sweden’s state-owned monopoly alcohol retailer, as “Made in Israel” on shelves and in the sales catalogue. Following customer complaints and consultation with Sweden’s foreign ministry, Systembolaget changed the shelf labelling to read, “Made in Israeli-occupied Syrian territories.”[8] However this prompted complaints from Annelie Enochson and officials in Israel.[8][9] Systembolaget’s solution was to remove all reference to the product’s country of origin on shelves and in catalogues, classifying the wine as of “other origins.”[10] The winery has won worldwide acclaim and awards at the most prestigious festivals, including wine shows in France.[11] Golan Heights Winery was named Best Foreign Winery at the Prague Trophy 2008 international wine competition. At a ceremony on January 16, 2009, the winery received the award after winning seven medals at the competition.[12] In 2011, Golan Heights Winery won the Gran Vinitaly Special Award as the best wine producer at the 19th International Vinitaly Wine Competition in Italy. The winery earned two Grand Gold Medals for its 2009 Yarden Chardonnay Odem Organic Vineyard and its 2008 Yarden HeightsWine.[13] Its 2004 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon was the first wine from Israel to be listed on the Wine Spectator Top 100.

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November 17, 2016   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Golan Heights Law – Wikipedia

The Golan Heights Law is the Israeli law which applies Israel’s government and laws to the Golan Heights. It was ratified by the Knesset on December 14, 1981. The law was not recognised internationally[1] and determined null and void by United Nations Security Council Resolution 497.[2][3] The law was passed half a year before Israel’s withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula. Unusually, all three readings took place on the same day. This procedure was heavily criticized by the centre-left opposition. Substantially, the law has mainly been criticized for potentially hindering future negotiations with Syria. While the Israeli public at large, and especially the law’s critics, viewed it as an annexation, the law avoids the use of the word. Prime Minister Menachem Begin responded to Amnon Rubinstein’s criticism by saying, “You use the word ‘annexation.’ I do not use it,” and noting that similar wording was used in a 1967 law authorizing the government to apply Israeli law to any part of the Land of Israel. The earlier law covered only those areas included in the British Mandate, requiring a separate law for the Golan Heights (these were included in the French Mandate of Syria). The three broad provisions in the Golan Heights Law are the following:[4] 1. “The Law, jurisdiction and administration of the State will take effect in the Golan Heights, as described in the Schedule.” 2. “This Law will begin taking effect on the day of its acceptance in the Knesset.” 3. “The Minister of the Interior is placed in-charge of the implementation of this Law, and is entitled, in consultation with the Minister of Justice, to enact regulations for its implementation and to formulate regulations on interim provisions regarding the continued application of regulations, directives, administrative directives, and rights and duties that were in effect in the Golan Heights prior to the acceptance of this Law.” Signed:

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October 17, 2016   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Golan Heights – Wikipedia

The Golan Heights (Arabic: Habatu ‘l-Jawln or Murtafatu l-Jawln, Hebrew: , Ramat HaGolan (audio)(helpinfo)), or simply the Golan or the Syrian Golan,[3] is a region in the Levant. The western two-thirds of the Golan Heights are currently occupied and administrated by Israel,[1][2] whereas the eastern third is controlled by Syria, with the UNDOF maintaining a buffer zone in between, to implement the ceasefire of the Purple Line. The exact region defined as the Golan Heights is different in different disciplines: The earliest evidence of human habitation dates to the Upper Paleolithic period.[4] According to the Bible, an Amorite Kingdom in Bashan was conquered by Israelites during the reign of King Og.[5] Throughout the Old Testament period, the Golan was “the focus of a power struggle between the Kings of Israel and the Aramaeans who were based near modern-day Damascus.”[6] The Itureans, an Arab or Aramaic people, settled there in the 2nd century BCE and remained until the end of the Byzantine period.[7][8][9] Organized Jewish settlement in the region came to an end in 636 CE when it was conquered by Arabs under Umar ibn al-Khattb.[10] In the 16th century, the Golan was conquered by the Ottoman Empire and was part of the Vilayet of Damascus until it was transferred to French control in 1918. When the mandate terminated in 1946, it became part of the newly independent Syrian Arab Republic. Internationally recognized as Syrian territory, the Golan Heights has been occupied and administered by Israel since 1967.[1] It was captured during the 1967 Six-Day War, establishing the Purple Line.[11] On 19 June 1967, the Israeli cabinet voted to return the Golan to Syria in exchange for a peace agreement, although this was rejected after the Khartoum Resolution of 1 September 1967.[12][13] In the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, in which Syria tried but failed to recapture the Golan, Israel agreed to return about 5% of the territory to Syrian civilian control. This part was incorporated into a demilitarised zone that runs along the ceasefire line and extends eastward. This strip is under the military control of UNDOF. Construction of Israeli settlements began in the remainder of the territory held by Israel, which was under military administration until Israel passed the Golan Heights Law extending Israeli law and administration throughout the territory in 1981.[14] This move was condemned by the United Nations Security Council in UN Resolution 497,[2][15] which said that “the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect.” Israel states it has a right to retain the Golan, citing the text of UN Resolution 242, which calls for “safe and recognised boundaries free from threats or acts of force”.[16] However, the international community reject Israeli claims to title to the territory and regards it as sovereign Syrian territory.[1][18] That said, the atrocities of the Syrian Civil War and the rise of the so-called Islamic State group, which at times has controlled what was the Syrian-administered Golan have added a new twist to the issue.[19] In 2015, it was reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked US President Barack Obama to recognize Israeli claims to the territory because of these recent ISIS actions and the fact that modern Syria has likely “disintegrated” beyond the point of reunification.[20][21] The White House dismissed Netenyahu’s suggestion, stating that the president continues to support UN resolutions 242 and 497, and any alterations of this policy could strain American alliances with western-backed Syrian rebel groups.[22] Historically, Israeli Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak, and Ehud Olmert each stated that they were willing to exchange the Golan for peace with Syria. Later, in 2010, Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman told Syria to abandon its dreams of recovering the Golan Heights.[23] Approximately 10% of Syrian Golan Druze have accepted Israeli citizenship.[24] According to the CIA World Factbook, as of 2010[update], “there are 41 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.”[25] Arabic names are Jawln[26] and Djolan (Arabic: ).[27] In the Bible, Golan is mentioned as a city of refuge located in Bashan: Deuteronomy 4:43, Joshua 20:8, 1Chronicles 6:71.[28] Nineteenth-century authors interpreted the word “Golan” (Hebrew: ) as meaning “something surrounded, hence a district”.[29][30] The Greek name for the region is Gaulanitis (Greek: ).[26] In the Mishna the name is Gabln similar to Aramaic language names for the region: Gawlna, Guwlana and Gubln.[26] Arab cartographers of the Byzantine period referred to the area as jabal (mountain), though the region is a plateau.[31] The Muslims took over in 7th century CE.[26] The 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia refers to the region as Gaulonitis.[32] The name Golan Heights was not used before the 19th century.[28] The Golan Heights borders Israel, Lebanon, and Jordan. According to Israel, it has captured 1,150 square kilometres (440sqmi).[33] According to Syria the Golan Heights measures 1,860 square kilometres (718sqmi), of which 1,500km2 (580sqmi) are occupied by Israel.[34] According to the CIA, Israel holds 1,300 square kilometres (500sqmi).[25] The area is hilly and elevated, overlooking the Jordan Rift Valley which contains the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River, and is itself dominated by the 2,743.2 metres (9,000ft) tall Mount Hermon.[35] The plateau has an average altitude of 1,000 metres (3,300ft) and an area totaling 1,800 square kilometres (690sqmi), and straddles the boundary between Syria and Israeli-held territory. Elevations range from 2,814 metres (9,232ft) in the north (if one considers Mount Hermon as part of the Heights), to below sea level along the Sea of Galilee and the Yarmuk River in the south.[25] The plateau that Israel controls is part of a larger area of volcanic basalt fields stretching north and east that were created in the series of volcanic eruptions that began recently in geological terms, almost 4 million years ago, and continue to this day. It has distinct geographic boundaries. On the north, the Sa’ar valley (Banias) generally divides the lighter-colored limestone bedrock of the mountains from the dark-colored volcanic rocks of the Golan plateau. The western border of the plateau is truncated structurally by the Jordan Rift Valley, which falls down steeply into the lake. The southern border is lined by the Yarmuk River, which separates the plateau from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Finally, the east end of Golan Heights is carved out by the Raqqad river (Wadi Ruqqad) and areas still controlled by Syria.[36] The plateau’s north-south length is approximately 65 kilometres (40mi) and its east-west width varies from 12 kilometres (7.5mi) to 25 kilometres (16mi).[37][38]Topographically, the Golan Heights ranges in elevation from 2,814 metres (9,232ft) on Mount Hermon in the north, to about 400 metres (1,300ft) elevation along the Yarmuk River in the south. The Sea of Galilee, also known as Lake Kinneret or Lake Tiberias, at the southwest corner of the plateau is 200 metres (660ft) below sea level. The steeper, more rugged topography is generally limited to the northern half, including the foothills of Mount Hermon; on the south the plateau is more level.[37] The broader Golan plateau exhibits a more subdued topography, generally ranging between 120 metres (390ft) and 520 metres (1,710ft) in elevation. In Israel, the Golan plateau is divided into three regions: northern (between the Sa’ar and Jilabun valleys), central (between the Jilabun and Daliyot valleys), and southern (between the Daliyot and Yarmouk valleys). The Golan Heights is bordered on the west by a rock escarpment that drops 500 metres (1,600ft) to the Jordan River valley and the Sea of Galilee. In the south, the incised Yarmouk River valley marks the limits of the plateau and, east of the abandoned railroad bridge upstream of Hamat Gader and Al Hammah, it marks the recognised international border between Syria and Jordan.[39] Geologically, the Golan plateau and the Hauran plain to the east constitute a Holocene volcanic field that also extends northeast almost to Damascus. Much of the area is scattered with dormant volcanos, as well as cinder cones, such as Majdal Shams. The plateau also contains a crater lake, called Birkat Ram (“Ram Pool”), which is fed by both surface runoff and underground springs. These volcanic areas are characterised by basalt bedrock and dark soils derived from its weathering. The basalt flows overlie older, distinctly lighter-colored limestones and marls, exposed along the Yarmouk River in the south. The rock forming the mountainous area in the northern Golan Heights, descending from Mount Hermon, differs geologically from the volcanic rocks of the plateau and has a different physiography. The mountains are characterised by lighter-colored, Jurassic-age limestone of sedimentary origin. Locally, the limestone is broken by faults and solution channels to form a karst-like topography in which springs are common. In addition to its strategic military importance, the Golan Heights is an important water resource, especially at the higher elevations, which are snow-covered in the winter and help sustain baseflow for rivers and springs during the dry season. The heights receive significantly more precipitation than the surrounding, lower-elevation areas. The occupied sector of the Golan Heights provides or controls a substantial portion of the water in the Jordan River watershed, which in turn provides a portion of Israel’s water supply. The Golan Heights supply 15% of Israel’s water.[40] The Venus of Berekhat Ram, a stone figure from the Lower Paleolithic era, found in the Golan Heights, may have been created by Homo erectus between 700,000 and 230,000 BCE.[41] In the 3rd millennium BC the Amorites inhabited the Golan until it was conquered in the 2nd millennium by the Arameans. The Aramaean city state Aram Damascus reached over most of Golan to the Sea of Galilee.[42] According to the Bible, the Children of Israel conquered the Golan from the Amorites.[5] The Bible also says that the area, known as Bashan, was inhabited by two Israelite tribes during the time of Joshua, the tribe of Dan[43] and Manasseh. The city of Golan was a city of refuge. King Solomon appointed ministers in the region.[44] After the split of the United Monarchy, the area was contested between the northern Kingdom of Israel and the Aramean kingdom from the 9th century BC. King Ahab of Israel (reigned 874852 BC) defeated Ben-Hadad I in Afek of the southern Golan. In the 8th century BC the Assyrians gained control of the area, followed by the Babylonian and the Persian Empire. In the 5th century BC, the Persian Empire allowed the region to be resettled by returning Jewish exiles from Babylonian Captivity. The Golan Heights, along with the rest of the region, came under the control of Alexander the Great in 332 BC, following the Battle of Issus. Following Alexander’s death, the Golan came under the domination of the Macedonian noble Seleucus and remained part of the Seleucid Empire for most of the next two centuries. It is during this period that the name Golan, previously that of a city mentioned in the book of Deuteronomy, came to be applied to the entire region (Greek: Gaulanitis). After the Assyrian period, about four centuries provide limited archaeological finds in the Golan.[45] In the middle of the 2nd century BCE, Itureans started living in the Golan.[9] They lived in over 100 locations in the Mount Hermon and Golan region.[46] The Maccabean revolt saw much action in the regions around the Golan and it is possible that the Jewish communities of the Golan were among those rescued by Judas Maccabeus during his campaign in the Galilee and Gilead (Transjordan) mentioned in Chapter 5 of 1 Maccabees. The Golan, however, remained in Seleucid hands until the campaign of Alexander Jannaeus from 8380 BC. Jannaeus established the city of Gamla in 81 BC as the Hasmonean capital for the region. During the Roman and Byzantine periods the area was administered as part of Phoenicia Prima and Syria Palaestina, and finally Golan/Gaulanitis was included together with Peraea[31] in Palaestina Secunda, after 218 AD.[26] Ancient kingdom Bashan was incorporated into the province of Batanea.[47] Following the death of Herod the Great in 4 BC, Augustus Caesar adjudicated that the Golan fell within the Tetrarchy of Herod’s son, Herod Philip I. After Philip’s death in 34 AD, the Romans absorbed the Golan into the province of Syria, but Caligula restored the territory to Herod’s grandson Agrippa in 37. Following Agrippa’s death in 44, the Romans again annexed the Golan to Syria, promptly to return it again when Claudius traded the Golan to Agrippa II, the son of Agrippa I, in 51 as part of a land swap. Although nominally under Agrippa’s control and not part of the province of Judea, the Jewish communities of the Golan joined their coreligionists in the First Jewish-Roman War, only to fall to the Roman armies in its early stages. Gamla was captured in 67; according to Josephus, its inhabitants committed mass suicide, preferring it to crucifixion and slavery. Agrippa II contributed soldiers to the Roman war effort and attempted to negotiate an end to the revolt. In return for his loyalty, Rome allowed him to retain his kingdom, but finally absorbed the Golan for good after his death in 100. In about 250, the Ghassanids, Arab Christians from Yemen, established a kingdom which encompassed southern Syria and the Transjordan, building their capital at Jabiyah on the Golan. Like the later Herodians, the Ghassanids ruled as clients of Byzantine Rome; unlike the Herodians, the Ghassanids were able to hold on to the Golan until the Sassanid invasion of 614. Following a brief restoration under the Emperor Heraclius, the Golan again fell, this time to the invading Arabs after the Battle of Yarmouk in 636. After Yarmouk, Muawiyah I, a member of Muhammad’s tribe, the Quraish, was appointed governor of Syria, including the Golan. Following the assassination of his cousin, the Caliph Uthman, Muawiya claimed the Caliphate for himself, initiating the Umayyad dynasty. Over the next few centuries, while remaining in Muslim hands, the Golan passed through many dynastic changes, falling first to the Abbasids, then to the Shi’ite Fatimids, then to the Seljuk Turks, then to the Kurdish Ayyubids. During the Crusades, the Heights represented a formidable obstacle the Crusader armies were not able to conquer, and the area was a part of the Emirate of Damascus during this time.[48][49] The Mongols swept through in 1259, but were driven off by the Mamluk sultan Qutuz at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260. Ain Jalut ensured Mamluk dominance of the region for the next 250years. For many centuries nomadic tribes lived together with the sedentary population in the region. At times, the central government attempted to settle the nomads which would result in the establishment of permanent communities. When the power of the governing regime declined, as happened during the early Muslim period, nomadic trends increased and many of the rural and agricultural villages were abandoned due to harassment from the Bedouins. They were not resettled until the second half of the 19th century.[50] In the 16th century, the Ottoman Turks conquered Syria. During this time, the Golan formed part of the southern district of their empire. Some Druze communities were established in the Golan during the 17th and 18th centuries.[51] In 1868, the region was described as “almost entirely desolate.” According to a travel handbook of the time, only 11 of 127 ancient towns and villages in the Golan were inhabited.[52] As a result of the Russo-Turkish War of 187778, there was a huge influx of refugees from the Caucasus into the empire. The Ottomans encouraged them to settle in southern Syria, particularly the Golan Heights, by granting them land with a 12-year tax exemption.[53][54][55][56] In 1884 there were still open stretches of uncultivated land between villages in the lower Golan, but by the mid-1890s most was owned and cultivated.[57] Some land had been purchased in the Golan and Hawran by Zionist associations based in Romania, Bulgaria, the USA and England, in the late 19th century and early 20th century.[58] In 1880, Laurence Oliphant published Eretz ha-Gilad (The Land of Gilead), which described a plan for large-scale Jewish settlement in the Golan.[59] In the winter of 1885, members of the Old Yishuv in Safed formed the Beit Yehuda Society and purchased 15,000 dunams of land from the village of Ramthaniye in the central Golan.[60] Due to financial hardships and the long wait for a kushan (Ottoman land deed) the village, Golan be-Bashan, was abandoned after a year. Soon afterwards, the society regrouped and purchased 2,000 dunams of land from the village of Bir e-Shagum on the western slopes of the Golan.[61] The village they established, Bnei Yehuda, existed until 1920.[62][63] The last families left in the wake of the Passover riots of 1920.[60] In 1944 the JNF bought the Bnei Yehuda lands from their Jewish owners, but a later attempt to establish Jewish ownership of the property in Bir e-Shagum through the courts was not successful.[62] Between 1891 and 1894, Baron Edmond James de Rothschild purchased around 150,000 dunams of land in the Golan and the Hawran for Jewish settlement.[60] Legal and political permits were secured and ownership of the land was registered in late 1894.[60] The Agudat Ahim society, whose headquarters were in Yekatrinoslav, Russia, acquired 100,000 dunams of land in several locations in the districts of Fiq and Daraa. A plant nursery was established and work began on farm buildings in Djillin.[60] The Jews also built a road stretching from Lake Hula to Muzayrib.[62] A village called Tiferet Binyamin was established on lands purchased from Saham al-Jawlan by the Shavei Zion Association based in New York,[58] but the project was abandoned after a year when the Turks issued an edict in 1896 evicting the 17 non-Turkish families. A later attempt to resettle the site with Syrian Jews who were Ottoman citizens also failed.[64] Between 1904 and 1908, a group of Crimean Jews settled in the Bethsaida Valley, initially as tenants of a Kurdish proprietor with the prospects of purchasing the land, but the arrangement faltered.[65][66] Jewish settlement in the region dwindled over time, due to Arab hostility, Turkish bureaucracy, disease and economic difficulties.[67] In 19211930, during the French Mandate, the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association (PICA) obtained the deeds to the Rothschild estate and continued to manage it, collecting rents from the Arab peasants living there.[62] Great Britain accepted a Mandate for Palestine at the meeting of the Allied Supreme Council at San Remo, but the borders of the territory were not defined at that stage.[68][69] The boundary between the forthcoming British and French mandates was defined in broad terms by the Franco-British Boundary Agreement of December 1920.[70] That agreement placed the bulk of the Golan Heights in the French sphere. The treaty also established a joint commission to settle the precise details of the border and mark it on the ground.[70] The commission submitted its final report on 3 February 1922, and it was approved with some caveats by the British and French governments on 7 March 1923, several months before Britain and France assumed their Mandatory responsibilities on 29 September 1923.[71][72] In accordance with the same process, a nearby parcel of land that included the ancient site of Tel Dan and the Dan spring were transferred from Syria to Palestine early in 1924. The Golan Heights, including the spring at Wazzani and the one at Banias, thus became part of the French Mandate of Syria, while the Sea of Galilee was placed entirely within the British Mandate of Palestine. When the French Mandate of Syria ended in 1944, the Golan Heights became part of the newly independent state of Syria and was later incorporated into Quneitra Governorate. After the 194849 Arab-Israeli War, the Golan Heights were partly demilitarised by the Israel-Syria Armistice Agreement. During the following years, the area along the border witnessed thousands of violent incidents; the armistice agreement was being violated by both sides. The underlying causes of the conflict were a disagreement over the legal status of the demilitarised zone (DMZ), cultivation of land within it and competition over water resources. Syria claimed that neither party had sovereignty over the DMZ. Israel contended that the Armistice Agreement dealt solely with military concerns and that she had political and legal rights over the DMZ. Israel wanted to assert control up till the 1923 boundary in order to reclaim the Hula swamp, gain exclusive rights to Lake Galilee and divert water from the Jordan for its National Water Carrier. During the 1950s, Syria registered two principal territorial accomplishments: it took over Al-Hammah enclosure south of Lake Tiberias and established a de facto presence on and control of eastern shore of the lake.[73][74] The Jordan Valley Unified Water Plan was sponsored by the United States and agreed by the technical experts of the Arab League and Israel.[75] The U.S.A funded the Israeli and Jordanian water diversion projects, when they pledged to abide by the plan’s allocations.[76] President Nasser too, assured the U.S.A, that the Arabs would not exceed the plan’s water quotas.[77] However, in the early 1960s the Arab League funded a Syrian water diversion project that would have denied Israel use of a major portion of its water allocation.[78] The resulting armed clashes are called the War over Water.[79] in July 1966,[80]Fatah began raids into Israeli territory in early 1965, with active support from Syria. At first the militants entered via Lebanon or Jordan, but those countries made concerted attempts to stop them and raids directly from Syria increased.[81] Israel’s response was a series of retaliatory raids, of which the largest were an attack on the Jordanian village of Samu in November 1966.[82] In April 1967, after Syria heavily shelled Israeli villages from the Golan Heights, Israel shot down six Syrian MiG fighter planes and warned Syria against future attacks.[81][83] In the period between the first Arab-Israeli War and the Six-Day War, the Syrians constantly harassed Israeli border communities by firing artillery shells from their dominant positions on the Golan Heights.[84][85] In October 1966 Israel brought the matter up before the United Nations. Five nations sponsored a resolution criticizing Syria for its actions but it failed to pass due to a Soviet veto.[86][87][88] Former Israeli General Mattityahu Peled said that more than half of the border clashes before the 1967 war “were a result of our security policy of maximum settlement in the demilitarised area.”[89] Israeli incursions into the zone were responded to with Syrians shooting. Israel in turn would retaliate with military force.[73] Sir Alec Douglas-Home, former Prime Minister of the UK, stated that when he was visiting the Galilee a few months before the 1967 war “at regular intervals the Russian-built forts on the Golan Heights used to lob shells into the villages, often claiming civilian casualties.” He said after the 1973 war that any agreement between the two sides “must clearly put a stop the that kind of offensive action.”[90] In 1976, Israeli defense minister Moshe Dayan said that Israel provoked more than 80% of the clashes with Syria, although historians say the remark was part of an informal conversation.[91] The provocation was sending a tractor to plow in the demilitarized areas. The Syrians responded by firing at the tractors and shelling Israeli settlements.[92][93] Jan Mhren, a former UN observer in the area at the time, told a Dutch current affairs programme that Israel “provoked most border incidents as part of its strategy to annex more land”.[94] UN officials blamed both Israel and Syria for destabilizing the borders.[95] After the Six-Day War broke out in June 1967, Syria’s shelling greatly intensified and the Israeli army captured the Golan Heights on 910 June. The area which came under Israeli control as a result of the war consists of two geologically distinct areas: the Golan Heights proper, with a surface of 1,070 square kilometres (410sqmi) and the slopes of the Mt. Hermon range, with a surface of 100 square kilometres (39sqmi). The new ceasefire line was named the Purple Line. In the battle, Israel lost 115 men, with another 306 wounded. An estimated 2,500 Syrians were killed, with another 5,000 wounded.[96] During the war, between 80,000[97] and 131,000[98] Syrians fled or were driven from the heights and around 7,000 remained in the Israeli-occupied territory.[98] Israeli sources and the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants reported that much of the local population of 100,000 fled as a result of the war, whereas the Syrian government stated that a large proportion of it was expelled.[99] Israel has not allowed former residents to return, citing security reasons.[100] The remaining villages were Majdal Shams, Shayta (later destroyed), Ein Qiniyye, Mas’ade, Buq’ata and, outside the Golan proper, Ghajar. Israeli settlement in the Golan began soon after the war. Merom Golan was founded in July 1967 and by 1970 there were 12 settlements.[101] In the 1970s, Israeli politician Yigal Allon proposed as part of the Allon Plan that a Druze state be established in Syria’s Quneitra Governorate, including the Israeli-held Golan Heights. Allon died in 1980 and his plan never materialised.[102] During the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Syrian forces overran much of the southern Golan, before being pushed back by an Israeli counterattack. Israel and Syria signed a ceasefire agreement in 1974 that left almost all the Heights in Israeli hands. East of the 1974 ceasefire line lies the Syrian controlled part of the Heights, an area that was not captured by Israel (500 square kilometres or 190 sq mi) or withdrawn from (100 square kilometres or 39 sq mi). This area forms 30% of the Golan Heights.[103] Today it contains more than 40 Syrian towns and villages. In 1975, following the 1974 ceasefire agreement, Israel returned a narrow demilitarised zone to Syrian control. Some of the displaced residents began returning to their homes located in this strip and the Syrian government began helping people rebuild their villages, except for Quneitra. In the mid-1980s the Syrian government launched a plan called “The Project for the Reconstruction of the Liberated Villages”.[citation needed] By the end of 2007, the population of the Quneitra Governorate was estimated at 79,000.[104] Mines deployed by the Syrian army remain active. As of 2003, there had been at least 216 landmine casualties in the Syrian-controlled Golan since 1973, of which 108 were fatalities.[105] The Golan Heights was under Israeli military administration from 1967 to 1981. In 1981, Israel passed the Golan Heights Law,[14] which applied Israeli “laws, jurisdiction and administration” to the Golan Heights. Although the law in effect annexed the territory to Israel, it did not explicitly spell out the formal annexation.[106] The area is administered as part of Israel’s North District. Israel’s action was not recognised internationally[107] and United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 which declared the Golan Heights Israeli-occupied territory continues to apply. Israel maintains that it may retain the area as the text of Resolution 242 calls for “safe and recognised boundaries free from threats or acts of force”.[16] During the negotiations regarding the text of United Nations Security Council resolution 242, U.S. Secretary of State Rusk explained that U.S. support for secure permanent frontiers did not mean the US supported territorial changes.[108] The U.N. representative for the United Kingdom who was responsible for negotiating and drafting the Security Council resolution said that the actions of the Israeli Government in establishing settlements and colonizing the Golan are in clear defiance of Resolution 242.[109] Syria continued to demand a full Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders, including a strip of land on the east shore of the Sea of Galilee that Syria captured during the 194849 Arab-Israeli War and occupied from 194967. Successive Israeli governments have considered an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan in return for normalization of relations with Syria, provided certain security concerns are met. Prior to 2000, Syrian president Hafez al-Assad rejected normalization with Israel. During United Statesbrokered negotiations in 19992000, Israel and Syria discussed a peace deal that would include Israeli withdrawal in return for a comprehensive peace structure, recognition and full normalization of relations. The disagreement in the final stages of the talks was on access to the Sea of Galilee. Israel offered to withdraw to the pre-1948 border (the 1923 Paulet-Newcombe line), while Syria insisted on the 1967 frontier. The former line has never been recognised by Syria, claiming it was imposed by the colonial powers, while the latter was rejected by Israel as the result of Syrian aggression. The difference between the lines is less than 100m for the most part, but the 1967 line would give Syria access to the Sea of Galilee, and Israel wished to retain control of the Sea of Galilee, its only freshwater lake and a major water resource.[110] Dennis Ross, Clinton’s chief Middle East negotiator, blamed “cold feet” on the part of Barak for the breakdown.[111] Clinton also laid blame on Israel.[112] In June 2007, it was reported that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had sent a secret message to Syrian President, Bashar Assad saying that Israel would concede the land in exchange for a comprehensive peace agreement and the severing of Syria’s ties with Iran and militant groups in the region.[113] On the same day, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the former Syrian President, Hafez Assad, had promised to let Israel retain Mount Hermon in any future agreement.[114] In April 2008, Syrian media reported Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoan told President Bashar al-Assad that Israel would withdraw from the Golan Heights in return for peace.[115][116] Israeli leaders of communities in the Golan Heights held a special meeting and stated: “all construction and development projects in the Golan are going ahead as planned, propelled by the certainty that any attempt to harm Israeli sovereignty in the Golan will cause severe damage to state security and thus is doomed to fail”.[117] A survey found that 70% of Israelis oppose relinquishing the Golan for peace with Syria.[118] That year, a plenary session of the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution 1611 in favour of a motion on the Golan Heights that reaffirmed Security Council resolution 497 and called on Israel to desist from “changing the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan and, in particular, to desist from the establishment of settlements [and] from imposing Israeli citizenship and Israeli identity cards on the Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan and from its repressive measures against the population of the occupied Syrian Golan.” Israel was the only nation to vote against the resolution.[119] Indirect talks broke down after the Gaza War began. Syria broke off the talks to protest Israeli military operations. Israel subsequently appealed to Turkey to resume mediation.[120] In May 2009, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that returning the Golan Heights would turn it into “Iran’s front lines which will threaten the whole state of Israel.”[121][122] He said: “I remember the Golan Heights without Katzrin, and suddenly we see a thriving city in the Land of Israel, which having been a gem of the Second Temple era has been revived anew.”[123] American diplomat Martin Indyk said that the 19992000 round of negotiations began during Netanyahu’s first term (19961999), and he was not as hardline as he made out.[124] In March 2009, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad claimed that indirect talks had failed after Israel did not commit to full withdrawal from the Golan Heights. In August 2009, he said that the return of the entire Golan Heights was “non-negotiable,” it would remain “fully Arab,” and would be returned to Syria.[125] In June 2009, Israeli President Shimon Peres said that Syrian President Assad would have to negotiate without preconditions, and that Syria would not win territorial concessions from Israel on a “silver platter” while it maintained ties with Iran and Hezbollah.[126] In response, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem demanded that Israel unconditionally cede the Golan Heights “on a silver platter” without any preconditions, adding that “it is our land,” and blamed Israel for failing to commit to peace. Syrian President Assad claimed that there was “no real partner in Israel.”[127] In 2010, Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman said: “We must make Syria recognise that just as it relinquished its dream of a greater Syria that controls Lebanon … it will have to relinquish its ultimate demand regarding the Golan Heights”[23] Claims on the territory include the fact that an area in northwestern of the Golan region, delineated by a rough triangle formed by the towns of Banias, Quneitra and the northern tip of the Sea of Galilee, was part of the British Palestine Mandate in which the establishment of a Jewish national home had been promised.[128] In 1923, this triangle in northwestern Golan was ceded to the French Mandate in Syria, but in exchange for this, land areas in Syria and Lebanon was ceded to Palestine, and the whole of the Sea of Galilee which previously had its eastern boundary connected to Syria was placed inside Palestine.[129] Syrians counter that the region was placed in the Vilayet of Damascus as part of Syria under the Ottoman boundaries and that the 1920 British-Franco agreement which had placed part of the Golan under the control of Britain was only temporary and that the final border line drawn up in 1923, which excluded the Golan triangle, had superseded it,[128] although Syria has never recognised the 1923 border as legally binding. One of the aspects of the dispute involves the existence prior to 1967 of three different lines separating Syria from the area that between 1948 and 1967 was referred to as Mandatory Palestine. The 1923 boundary between British Mandatory Palestine and the French Mandate of Syria was drawn with water in mind.[130] Accordingly, it was demarcated so that all of the Sea of Galilee, including a 10-meter wide strip of beach along its northeastern shore, would stay inside Mandatory Palestine. From the Sea of Galilee north to Lake Hula the boundary was drawn between 50 and 400 meters east of the upper Jordan River, keeping that stream entirely within Mandatory Palestine. The British also received a sliver of land along the Yarmouk River, out to the present-day Hamat Gader.[131] During the Arab-Israeli War, Syria captured various areas of the formerly British controlled Mandatory Palestine, including the 10-meter strip of beach, the east bank of the upper Jordan, as well as areas along the Yarmouk. While negotiating the 1949 Armistice Agreements, Israel called for the removal of all Syrian forces from the former Palestine territory. Syria refused, insisting on an armistice line based not on the 1923 international border but on the military status quo. The result was a compromise. Under the terms of an armistice signed on 20 July 1949, Syrian forces were to withdraw east of the old Palestine-Syria boundary. Israeli forces were to refrain from entering the evacuated areas, which would become a demilitarised zone, “from which the armed forces of both Parties shall be totally excluded, and in which no activities by military or paramilitary forces shall be permitted.”[132] Accordingly, major parts of the armistice lines departed from the 1923 boundary and protruded into Israel. There were three distinct, non-contiguous enclavesin the extreme northeast to the west of Banias, on the west bank of the Jordan River near Lake Hula, and the eastern-southeastern shores of the Sea of Galilee extending out to Hamat Gader, consisting of 66.5 square kilometres (25.7sqmi) of land lying between the 1949 armistice line and the 1923 boundary, forming the demilitarised zone.[130] Following the armistice, both Israel and Syria sought to take advantage of the territorial ambiguities left in place by the 1949 agreement. This resulted in an evolving tactical situation, one “snapshot” of which was the disposition of forces immediately prior to the Six-Day War, the line of June 4, 1967.[130] On 7 June 2000, the demarcation Blue Line was established by the UN in order to ensure full Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, according to UN Security Council Resolution 425. After Israeli troops left Lebanese soil, the UN announced the resolution had been respected. However, Lebanon continues to claim a small portion of the area occupied by Israel and administered as part of the Golan Heights. The territory, known as the Shebaa Farms, measures 22 square kilometres (8.5sqmi) and lies on the border between Lebanon and the Golan Heights. Maps used by the UN in demarcating the Blue Line were not able to conclusively show the border between Lebanon and Syria in the area. Syria agrees that the Shebaa Farms are within Lebanese territory; however, Israel considers the area to be inside of Syria’s borders and continues to occupy the territory.[133][134][135] Al Ghajar village is another complex border issue west of Shebaa farms. Before the 1967 war this Alawite village was in Syria. It is divided by an international boundary, with the northern part of the village on the Lebanese side since 2000. Residents of both parts hold Israeli citizenship, and in the northern part often a Lebanese passport as well. Today the entire village is surrounded by a fence, with no division between the Israeli-occupied and Lebanese sides. There is an Israeli army checkpoint at the entrance to the village from the rest of the Golan Heights.[135] In 1975, U.S. President Gerald Ford wrote a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin stating that the U.S. had not developed a final position on the borders but once it had, it would give great weight to Israel’s position that a peace agreement with Syria must be predicated on Israel remaining on the Golan Heights.[136] In 1991, U.S. Secretary of State James Baker told Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir that the United States would honor the position expressed in Ford’s letter. William B. Quandt speculates that Baker told Syrian President Hafez al-Assad that the United States did not recognize Israel’s annexation of the Golan and thought that UN Resolution 242 should apply there.[137] The United States considers the Golan Heights to be Syrian territory held under Israeli occupation subject to negotiation and Israeli withdrawal. The United States considers the application of Israeli law to the Golan Heights to be a violation of international law, both the Fourth Geneva Convention’s prohibition on the acquisition of territory by force and United Nations Security Council Resolution 242.[22][138] UNDOF (the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force) was established in 1974 to supervise the implementation of the Agreement on Disengagement and maintain the ceasefire with an area of separation known as the UNDOF Zone. Currently there are more than 1,000 UN peacekeepers there trying to sustain a lasting peace. Details of the UNDOF mission, mandate, map and military positions can be accessed via the following United Nations link.[139] Syria and Israel still contest the ownership of the Heights but have not used overt military force since 1974. The great strategic value of the Heights both militarily and as a source of water means that a deal is uncertain. Members of the UN Disengagement force are usually the only individuals who cross the Israeli-Syrian de facto border (cease fire “Alpha Line”), but since 1988 Israel has allowed Druze pilgrims to cross into Syria to visit the shrine of Abel on Mount Qasioun. Since 1967, Druze brides have been allowed to cross into Syria, although they do so in the knowledge that they may not be able to return. Though the cease fire in the UNDOF zone has been largely uninterrupted since the seventies, in 2012 there have been repeated violations from the Syrian side, including tanks[140] and live fire,[141] though these incidents are attributed to the ongoing Syrian civil war rather than intentionally directed towards Israel.[142] The population of the Golan Heights prior to the 1967 Six-Day War has been estimated between 130,000 and 145,000, including 17,000 Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA.[143] Between 80,000[97] and 130,000[98] Syrians fled or were driven from the heights during the Six-Day War and around 7,000 remained in the Israeli-held territory in six villages: Majdal Shams, Mas’ade, Buq’ata, Ein Qiniyye, Ghajar and Shayta.[98] Israel demolished over one hundred Syrian villages and farms in the Golan Heights.[144][145] After the demolitions, the lands were given to Israeli settlers.[146] Quneitra was the largest town in the Golan Heights until 1967, with a population of 27,000. It was occupied by Israel on the last day of the Six-Day War and handed back to Syrian civil control per the 1974 Disengagement Agreement. But the Israelis had destroyed Quneitra with dynamite and bulldozers before they withdrew from the city.[147][148] East of the 1973 ceasefire line, in the Syrian controlled part of the Golan Heights, an area of 600 square kilometres (232sqmi), are more than 40 Syrian towns and villages, including Quneitra, Khan Arnabah, al-Hamidiyah, al-Rafid, al-Samdaniyah, al-Mudariyah, Beer Ajam, Bariqa, Ghadir al-Bustan, Hadar Juba, Kodana, Ufaniyah, Ruwayhinah, Nabe al-Sakhar, Trinjah, Umm al-Azam, and Umm Batna. The population of the Quneitra Governorate numbers 79,000.[104] In the late 1970s, the Israeli government offered all non-Israelis living in the Golan citizenship, but until the early 21st century fewer than 10% of the Druze were Israeli citizens; the remainder held Syrian citizenship.[149] The Golan Alawites in the village of Ghajar accepted Israeli citizenship in 1981.[150] In 2012, due to the situation in Syria, young Druze have applied to Israeli citizenship in much larger numbers than in previous years.[151] In 2012, there were 20,000 Druze with Syrian citizenship living in the Israeli-occupied portion Golan Heights.[152] The Druze living in the Golan Heights are permanent residents of Israel. They hold laissez-passers issued by the Israeli government, and enjoy the country’s social welfare benefits.[153] The pro-Israeli Druze were historically ostracized by the pro-Syrian Druze.[154] Reluctance to accept citizenship also reflects fear of ill treatment or displacement by Syrian authorities should the Golan Heights eventually be returned to Syria.[155] According to The Independent, most Druze in the Golan Heights live relatively comfortable lives in a freer society than they would have in Syria under Assad’s government.[156] According to Egypt’s Daily Star, their standard of living vastly surpasses that of their counterparts on the Syrian side of the border. Hence their fear of a return to Syria, though most of them identify themselves as Syrian,[157] but feel alienated from the “autocratic” government in Damascus. According to the Associated Press, “many young Druse have been quietly relieved at the failure of previous Syrian-Israeli peace talks to go forward.”[158] On the other hand, expressing pro-Syrian rhetoric, The Economist found, represents the Golan Druzes’ view that by doing so they may be potentially rewarded by Syria, while simultaneously risking nothing in Israel’s freewheeling society. The Economist likewise reported that “Some optimists see the future Golan as a sort of Hong Kong, continuing to enjoy the perks of Israels dynamic economy and open society, while coming back under the sovereignty of a stricter, less developed Syria.” The Druze are also reportedly well-educated and relatively prosperous, and have made use of Israel’s universities.[159] Since 1988, Druze clerics have been permitted to make annual religious pilgrimages to Syria. Since 2005, Israel has allowed Druze farmers to export some 11,000 tons of apples to the rest of Syria each year, constituting the first commercial relations between Syria and Israel.[158] Since the breakout of the Syrian Civil War in 2012, the number of applications for Israeli citizenship is growing, although Syrian loyalty remains strong and those who apply for citizenship are often ostracized by members of the older generation.[160] Israeli settlement activity began in the 1970s. The area was governed by military administration until 1981 when Israel passed the Golan Heights Law, which extended Israeli law and administration throughout the territory.[14] This move was condemned by the United Nations Security Council in UN Resolution 497,[2][15] although Israel states it has a right to retain the area, citing the text of UN Resolution 242, adopted after the Six-Day War, which calls for “safe and recognised boundaries free from threats or acts of force”.[16] The continued Israeli control of the Golan Heights remains highly contested and is still regarded as belligerent occupation by most countries. The international community rejects the validity of the Golan Heights Law as an attempted annexation by force, illegal under the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions.[161] Israeli settlements and human rights policy in the occupied territory have also drawn criticism from the UN.[162][163] The Israeli-occupied territory is administered by the Golan Regional Council, based in Katzrin, which has a population of 6,400. There another 19 moshavim and 10 kibbutzim. In 1989, the settler population was 10,000.[164] By 2010 the Jewish settler population had expanded to 20,000[165] living in 32 settlements.[166][167] The Golan Heights features numerous archeological sites, mountains, streams and waterfalls. Throughout the region 62 ancient synagogues have been found dating back to the Roman and Byzantine periods.[168] Kursi is the ruins of a Byzantine Christian monastery. Katzrin is the administrative and commercial center of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Katzrin Ancient Village is an archaeological site on the outskirts of Katzrin where the remains of a Talmud-era village and synagogue have been reconstructed.[169]Golan Archaeological Museum hosts archaeological finds uncovered in the Golan Heights from prehistoric times. A special focus concerns Gamla and excavations of synagogues and Byzantine churches.[170] Golan Heights Winery, a major Israeli winery, and the mineral water plant of Mey Eden, which derives its water from the spring of Salukiya in the Golan. One can tour these factories as well as factories of oil products and fruit products. Two open air strip malls, one which holds the Kesem ha-Golan (Golan Magic), a three-dimensional movie and model of the geography and history of the Golan Heights. Gamla Nature Reserve is an open park with the archaeological remains of the ancient Jewish city of Gamla including a tower, wall and synagogue. It is also the site of a large waterfall, an ancient Byzantine church, and a panoramic spot to observe the nearly 100 vultures that dwell in the cliffs. Israeli scientists study the vultures and tourists can watch them fly and nest.[171] Rujm el-Hiri is a large circular stone monument similar to Stonehenge. Excavations since 1968 have not uncovered material remains common to archaeological sites in the region. Archaeologists believe the site may have been a ritual center linked to a cult of the dead.[172] A 3D model of the site exists in the Museum of Golan Antiquities in Katzrin. Um el Kanatir is another impressive set of standing ruins of a Jewish village of the Byzantine era. The site includes a very large synagogue and two arches next to a natural spring.[173] The Nimrod Fortress was built against the Crusaders, served the Ayyubids and Mamluks, and was captured only once, in 1260, by the Mongols. It is now located inside a nature reserve. A ski resort on the slopes of Mount Hermon features a wide range of ski trails and activities. Several restaurants are located in the area. The Lake Ram crater lake is nearby. Hamat Gader is site of natural hot mineral springs with temperatures reaching 50C (122F). Hamat Gader was already used for recreation and healing purposes during Roman times. The site includes a Roman theatre, which was built in the 3rd century CE and contained 2,000 seats. A large synagogue was built in the 5th century CE. Hippos is an ancient Greco-Roman city, known in Jewish Aramaic as Susita. The archaeological site includes excavations of the city’s forum, the small imperial cult temple, a large Hellenistic temple compound, the Roman city gates, and two Byzantine churches. On a visit to Israel and the Golan Heights in 1972, Cornelius Ough, a professor of viticulture and oenology at the University of California, Davis, pronounced conditions in the Golan very suitable for the cultivation of wine grapes.[174] A consortium of four kibbutzim and four moshavim took up the challenge, clearing 250 burnt-out tanks in the Golan’s Valley of Tears to plant vineyards for what would eventually become the Golan Heights Winery.[175] The first vines were planted in 1976, and the first wine was released by the winery in 1983.[174] The heights are now home to about a dozen wineries.[176] In the early 1990s, the Israel National Oil Company (INOC) was granted shaft-sinking permits in the Golan Heights. It estimated a recovery potential of two million barrels of oil, equivalent at the time to $24 million. During the Yitzhak Rabin administration (19921995), the permits were suspended as efforts were undertaken to restart peace negotiations between Israel and Syria. In 1996, Benjamin Netanyahu granted preliminary approval to INOC to proceed with oil exploration drilling in the Golan.[177][178][179] INOC began undergoing a process of privatization in 1997, overseen by then-Director of the Government Companies Authority (GCA), Tzipi Livni. During that time, it was decided that INOC’s drilling permits would be returned to the state.[180][181] In 2012, National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau approved exploratory drilling for oil and natural gas in the Golan.[182] The following year, the Petroleum Council of Israel’s Ministry of Energy and Water Resources secretly awarded a drilling license covering half the area of the Golan Heights to a local subsidiary of New Jersey-based Genie Energy Ltd. headed by Effi Eitam.[183][184] Human rights groups have said the drilling violates international law as Golan Heights is an occupied territory.[185]

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October 14, 2016   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Israel targets Syrian artillery after projectile lands in …

The IDF said it was the third projectile to have crossed from Syria into the Golan this week, including one Sunday and another Wednesday. No injuries were reported in any of the incidents. The Israeli military said it holds the Syrian government “accountable for this blatant breach of Israeli sovereignty. The IDF will continue to act in order to safeguard Israel and its civilians.” The international community considers the Golan Heights to be occupied territory and Israeli settlement-building there to be illegal. Syria wants the return of the territory that UN peacekeeping forces have monitored for decades. According to foreign reports, Israel has conducted numerous strikes in Syria and Lebanon, destroying weapons shipments intended for the militant group Hezbollah. But no Israeli leader had every publicly acknowledged that these strikes occurred. Netanyahu said the presence of ancient synagogues in the Golan Heights showed that the territory, with a population of about 50,000, had been “an integral part of the Land of Israel since ancient times,” and that it remained an integral part of modern Israel. The Israeli military said its forces targeted the area, describing the inhabitants as “part of the terror cell responsible for the rocket fire at northern Israel ” It did not say how many people were killed in the attack in al Qom in Quneitra.

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September 10, 2016   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Golan Heights – Haaretz

U.S. House won’t vote on gun control at least until September, official says (Reuters) Death toll of Italian train crash rises to 20, officials say (Reuters) Austria to seize Hitler’s birthplace to prevent it from becoming Nazi pilgrimage site (Reuters) UN: Intesified fighting cuts off humanitarian aid passage to rebel-held part of Aleppo, Syria (AP) Iranian central bank, U.S. Treasury, international banks to meet, U.K. official says (Reuters) Death toll rises in Italy train crash to at least a dozen, firefighters say (AP) 2 trains collide in southern Italy; at least 4 dead, dozens injured (AP) At least 36,000 people have fled from South Sudan capital of Juba, UN says (Reuters) Israeli forces arrest 10 wanted Palestinians in West Bank city of Qalqilya (Haaretz) Dozens wait at Jerusalem Old City gate to enter Temple Mt with family of slain teenager (Haaretz) Car bomb kills nine north of Baghdad (Reuters) Australian convicted of recruiting 6 men to fight in Syria (AP) Suspect in Michigan courthouse shooting was an inmate who took gun from officer (Reuters) Israel passes contentious ‘NGO bill’ into law (Haaretz) Michigan governor says courthouse secured after shots fired (AP)

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July 6, 2016   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed


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