Archive for the ‘Golan Heights’ Category

Oil bonanza in Golan may help grease wheels for BRI | Asia Times – Asia Times

A burgeoning oil bonanza in the Golan Heights could be paving the way for China to strengthen its role as a peacekeeper in the troubled region, while at the same time smoothing the way for its Belt and Road Initiative.

Since regional stability is key to Chinas continued access to Mideast energy sources and to push forward the BRI, Beijing is stepping up efforts to help resolve the Syrian crisis and the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It is becoming more proactive in supporting a negotiated political settlement in Syria, proposing atrilateral dialogueamong China, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and moving ahead with regional infrastructure projects inSyria,Jordanand Israel where it will be importing20,000infrastructure workers.

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China is thus becoming a de facto regional stakeholder in the Middle East, as it is increasing resources to protect its growing portfolio of assets and citizens there. In July it deployed its first batch of troops to the new naval base inDjiboutito augment its ongoing United Nations peacekeeping presence in South Sudan(UNMISS) and Lebanon (UNIFIL), has offered8,000peacekeeping troops on permanent standby to conflict zones, and may join the GolansUNDOFin the future.

In November 2015, Afek Oil and Gas, a subsidiary of the UScompany Genie Energy, discovered an oil bonanza in the Golan Heights with the potential of billions of barrels. In an interview with Israels Channel 2 News, Afek chief geologist Yuval Batov said the layer was 350 meters thick, which is 10 times as large asthe average oil find worldwide.

Genie Energy managed to obtain exploratory licenses despite opposition from environmentaland local groups. These groups were concerned that drilling could pollute the largely unspoiled Golan countryside and the Sea of Galilee below, the source of most of Israels drinking water.

Indeed, there is still an ongoing debate over which is more important to Israel,access to water or energy independence, as spelled out in a recent analysis at the Begin-Sadat Center. Moreover, the quality, quantity and cost-effectiveness of extraction are still unknown, while other legal and planning battles await.

However, the biggest problems revolve around the issue of sovereignty.

Israel annexed much of the Golan in 1981, but the heights are still regarded internationally as illegally occupied Syrian territory. In the past, Israels leaders have offered to pull back from the Golan, which was captured in 1967, in return for a comprehensive peace treaty with the Syrian government. However, any such deal has been ruled out since Syria began disintegrating in 2011, and now there are efforts to demand recognition of Israeli control of the 1,200 square kilometers it occupieson the Golan.

Israels defense of the Golan intensified in June when it was caught in the crossfire between the Syrian Army and armed opposition forces in that country. After a mortar shell landed in the Golan, the Israeli Air Force attacked Syrian Army positions in the village of Samadanieh al Sharqiyah in Quneitra province. Israel also supports a rebel group called Knights of the Golan as a buffer force to keep the Syrian Army and Iran-backed Hezbollah at bay, adding to the complex and delicate environment in which Genie Energy needs to navigate on the Golan.

Nonetheless, there is another potential oil bounty that is within Israels territory and has escaped much media attention Zion Oil & Gass exploration of the Megiddo-Jezreel Valley.

Since 2005 Texas-based Zion Oil has been drilling near Haifa for potential 484 million barrels of oil, which geologists confirmed in 2004 to contain Triassic oil and gas fields.

Now, Zion Oil holds the Megiddo-Jezreel Petroleum Exploration License that comprises approximately 40,000 hectares, and is drilling about 42 kilometers south of the recent Genie oil discovery.

On November 6, 2015, Zion Oil announced the public release of a resource assessment report, with estimated prospective recoverable oil volumes ranging from 20.7 million to 234.6 million barrels. If a discovery is made, the best estimate for recoverable hydrocarbons is at 69.7 million barrels.

Add to this the offshore natural-gas fields of Leviathan and Tamar in the Levantine basin, and the newly discovered oil and gas bounty could enable Israel to become an important energy exporter not just in the region, but also to Asian markets such asChina and India.

Interestingly for regional actors such as Syria and Israel, Chinese UN peacekeeping troops may be more acceptable in the Golan, given that in 2006 Beijing sent 1,000 troops to Lebanon at the request of the Israelis. This is because Israel did not want Arab troops onits border, and preferred Asian troops from China, India, South Korea and the Philippines, as they were deemed to be more impartial in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Chinese reinforcements in UNDOF (the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force) may thus alsoserve as a confidence-building and effective buffer force between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights, given Chinas good relations with both sides, and perhaps providea testing ground for constructive US-China relations in the Mideast, with eventual joint benefits of the new oil bonanza.

Dr. Christina Lin is a Nonresident Fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at SAIS-Johns Hopkins University specializing in China-Middle East/Mediterranean relations, and a research consultant for Jane’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Intelligence Centre at IHS Markit.

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Russia Deploys Troops to Syria-Israel Border, Prepares to Build … – TheTower.org

Russia has begun moving troops to the Golan Heights border in preparation for a new military base in the area, according to Lebanese media sources.

The Al Mayadeen news channel reported that the Russian troops have replaced some Syrian army forces in the area, which has been a rebel stronghold throughout the civil war.

Online newspaper Al-Masdar News reported on Monday that over 400 Russian soldiers were deployed to the Daraa and Quneitra governorates in southern Syria to begin their policing effort. Russian soldiers have been tasked with maintaining the ceasefire between the Syrian Armed Forces and rebels in the governorates.

The new Russian troop deployment follows reports on July 26th that Russian military police were deployed to monitor two safe zones, one of which was located eight miles from the Golan Heights.

On July 9th, a new ceasefire agreement in southern Syria came into effect. It was brokered between the U.S. and Russia, with the support of Jordan. The ceasefire was announced after a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, during the G20 Summit in Germany. It affects the regions of Deraa and Suweida, along the Jordanian border, as well as Quneitra, near the border between Syria and the Israeli Golan Heights.

Following the announcement of the ceasefire, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel opposed the agreement because it perpetuates the Iranian presence in the country. Israels main concerns revolve around keeping Iran, Hezbollah, and Shiite militias away from the Israeli and Jordanian borders, and preventing Iran from gaining a foothold in Syria.

Israels security cabinet was reportedly briefed this week that U.S. and Russia have yet to agree on who would guarantee the arrangements in the de-escalation zones, prevent the entry of Iranian, Hezbollah, or Shiite militia forces, and monitor the ceasefire.

(via BICOM)

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Russia said deploying troops to Syrian Golan Heights | Live Updates … – The Times of Israel (blog)

Russia is deploying troops to southern Syria, near the Israeli border, Ynet reports citing reports in Arabic-language media.

According to the Lebanese-based Al Mayadeen news channel, Russia is building a military base in the area of Quneitra and Daraa, on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.

The report says the Syrian army is withdrawing from the area, which has been a rebel stronghold throughout the bloody civil war.

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Groups demand Israel removes army outposts and minefields from occupied Syrian town – WAFA – Palestine News Agency

Groups demand Israel removes army outposts and minefields from occupied Syrian town

HAIFA, August 2, 2017 (WAFA) – Adalah The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and Al-Marsad Arab Human Rights Centre in the Golan Heights sent a letter to senior Israeli military officials on 30 July demanding that they evacuate Israeli military outposts and minefields from the occupied Syrian town of Majdal Shams located on the Golan Heights, a press release said on Wednesday.

The military outposts, constructed after Israel occupied the Golan Heights in 1967, are situated on dozens of acres belonging to Majdal Shams residents. The outposts, and the associated minefields which surround the outposts and the town itself, are located directly adjacent to residential homes and the some 11,000 civilians who live there.

Adalah Attorney Muna Haddad and Al-Marsad Attorney Karama Abu Saleh wrote in their letter that the military outposts and minefields present a direct danger to Majdal Shams residents.

“Their very presence near the town endangers the lives of town residents in an illegal manner Fields of anti-personnel landmines have been placed around the outposts and the town itself. These mines pose a most serious danger to the residents as they cannot be easily identified, they drift beyond the [marked] minefields particularly during the winter months, and move towards the town’s homes and orchards. Some of the mines even explode as a result of summer heat. Over the years, many village residents particularly children have tragically been harmed by exploding mines.”

Israel’s failure to remove the minefields and the military outposts is a violation of international humanitarian law, Adalah and Al-Marsad said.

“Israel’s actions on the Golan Heights are subject to international humanitarian law. Article 43 of the Hague Convention stipulates that an occupying force’s primary factor when considering any action is its benefit to the local civilian population, and [this article] obligates protection of the residents of the occupied territory. Article 46 further requires protection of the lives and property of the local population.”

Al-Marsad appealed more than four years ago to the Israeli Defense Ministry which committed at that time to removing mines from the area. In 2013, Israel began to clear mines on Al Rihani hill in Majdal Shams but stopped before the work was completed and Israeli authorities have since failed to respond to further appeals from Al-Marsad.

Israel has occupied Majdal Shams since 1967. In 1981, Israel annexed the village, along with the other small Syrian villages of Ein Qiniyye, Mas’ade and Buq’ata, under the Golan Heights Law. Most inhabitants of Majdal Shams hold permanency residency status in Israel, as do Palestinians residents of East Jerusalem.

Since 1967, it is estimated that at least 69 civilian residents of the Golan Heights have been wounded by land mines. Among these, 18 died, half of whom were children. Israeli civilians, Israeli soldiers and tourists have also been victims of landmines, however, accurate figures on casualties are difficult to obtain.

More than 9,000 acres the equivalent of over 6,000 soccer fields are suspected to be mined in the Golan Heights, distributed over around 2,000 minefields that vary greatly in size. The mines are mostly found in grazing areas, agricultural land, along the ceasefire border, and in nature reserves. There are two mine fields within Majdal Shams itself.

Adalah and Al-Marsad demand the immediate removal of Israeli military outposts and minefields from Majdal Shams and its lands.

M.K.

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Groups demand Israel removes army outposts and minefields from occupied Syrian town – WAFA – Palestine News Agency

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Man marooned at sea for five days – Ynetnews

A 68-year-old resident of the Golan Heights who left England and set sail alone to Israel on a yacht was stranded 16 km from Israel for five days.

After marine police towed him to land, he told Ynet: “I didn’t get much sleep; just an hour or two here and there. I was really anxious to make it to land.

“I was marooned ten miles from Israel’s beach. I asked passing ships to let my family know I’m okay.”

The stranded yacht and its operator (Photo: Israel Police)

A series of malfunctions at sea caused the Golan Heights resident to be stuck at sea. The last malfunction took place when the yacht’s engine died 16 km from the shore, and he had spent the last five days trying to establish contact with someone who could take him home.

“I suffered from a lack of sleep. I woke up every 20 minutes looking for passing ships. Five days ago, when I was getting closer to Israel, my steering system malfunctioned and then, just ten miles from shore, the engine completely died,” he added.

“During this trip his engine and sails malfunctioned, and he was marooned at sea,” Dahan added. “As soon as he reached Israel’s maritime border, the coastal district marine patrol received a report from the Navy about his yacht. Marine patrol went out to find the vessel with all haste and found it, and the person aboardwho was in dire mental straits.”

Photo: Israel Police

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‘Naive’: Israel Rules Out Handing Over Golan Heights to Syria – Sputnik International

Israeli Ambassador to Russia Gary Koren said in an interview with Sputnik on Tuesday that Israel is not going to negotiate on the issue of the Golan Heights that were seized by Israelis from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) Israel does not plan onreturning the country’s northern Golan Heights region toSyria, Koren told Sputnik, commenting onthe central roadblock inlong-standing conflict betweenIsrael and Syria.

“According toour legislation, the Golan Heights are an independent part withinIsrael. If anyone keeps thinking that this question has yet tobe discussed, it is naive ofthem. In the past, duringthe tenure of [former Israeli Prime Minister] Ehud Barak’s government, we tried tohold talks, explore the opportunity oftalks with [former Syrian president] Hafez Assad, butit did not take us anywhere. Well, thank God it failed. If we had returned the Golan Heights, we would now have Hezbollah and Iranian soldiers overthe the Kinneret lake,” Koren said.

Sputnik/ Valeriy Melnikov

Iran and its allies, including Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah movement, support President Bashar Assad’s government inthe civil war inSyria. Israel regards Iran asits number one threat, pointing atTehran’s curtailed, yet existing, nuclear program, its hostile rhetoric and support offered toanti-Israel forces throughoutthe Middle East.

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‘Naive’: Israel Rules Out Handing Over Golan Heights to Syria – Sputnik International

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Netanyahu warns Iran filling the void left by IS in Golan – The Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said that Iran is seeking to replace the Islamic State terror group in the Golan Heights in order to create a new front against Israel.

The situation here is changing rapidly, IS is in retreat, but Iran is seeking to fill the void, he said during a tour of the Golan Heights with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot. Iran together with Hezbollah are creating a northern arc here, with the help of precision weapons.

We are dealing with these new threats to the State of Israel. We are paying close attention to a range of threats to the State of Israel, he added.

Netanyahu has warned repeatedly of Iranian attempts to establish military infrastructure with which to threaten Israel from the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, recently telling a number of Central European leaders that Iran, via its proxies, have and are still trying to create a terror front against Israel there.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman tour the northern border in the Golan Heights, on July 25, 2017. (Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)

Israel has repeatedly said it will not allow Iran to set up a permanent presence in Syria and has carried out a number of airstrikes in Syria against suspected shipments of game-changing weapons bound for the Hezbollah terror group.

Earlier this month, Netanyahu said that he opposes the deal brokered by the United States and Russia that led to an open-ended ceasefire in southern Syria, saying it does not sufficiently address Iranian military ambitions in the area.

The prime minister said that while the plan aims to keep Iran 20 kilometers (12 miles) away from the Israeli border, it did not address Irans plans to cement its presence in Syria, which, he said, included the establishment of a naval and air force bases.

Apprehensions over Iranian designs in the region were further stoked by recent movements of Shiite Muslim militias loyal to Iran and fighting alongside Syrian government forces toward Jordans border with Syria, and to another strategic area in the southeast, close to where the two countries meet Iraq.

In addition to Israel, a number of Sunni countries in the area have also warned against Iranian efforts to establish a Shiite crescent stretching from Tehran to Beirut via its allies in Baghdad and Damascus, with which to pursue its regional ambitions.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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Israeli vulture population on the rise – The Jerusalem Post

Israeli Vultures . (photo credit:YORAM SHAPIR)

After years of continuous decline, Israels vulture population is once again on the rise.

As of the end of June, vultures in Israel numbered about 180, up from 128 in 2010, as they continue to return to their habitats in the Carmel region and the Negev Desert, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority reported on Monday. While that figure is still staggeringly low in comparison to the 460 individuals recorded in 2003, INPA nesting and rehabilitation projects have enabled the survival of the birds as they return to their former strongholds.

This is the first time in more than a decade that the population of vultures in Israel has reached a positive balance, at such a rate, said INPA avian ecologist, Ohad Hatzofe.

About 66% of Israels 180 vultures reside in the Negev, while another 34% inhabit the Carmel region and the Golan Heights, according to the INPA. The Negev region has experienced a particularly strong increase in population size, with the number of nests particularly rising in the Ramon Crater area, a statement from the authority said.

The assessment of Israels vulture population occurred as part of annual survey within the Spreading Wings Project a conservation program run with the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, to protect the countrys dwindling vulture community.

The number of vultures may pale in comparison to the 460 soaring through Israels skies in 2003, but the population has been increasing in the Negev and stabilizing in the Carmel since 2010, according to the INPA.

This year alone, successful nesting in the Negev and Carmel will lead to another 25 individuals in these areas, while 12 other animals are being released from a breeding center, Hatzofe explained. All in all, the Israeli vulture population in 2017 is expected to experience three times more births than deaths, he added.

While ecologists are optimistic about the return of the birds to the Negev and Carmel, the situation remains dire for Israels vultures in the Golan Heights and the Judean Desert.

Just as we have succeeded in restoring the population of vultures in the Carmel region from zero to 40, we have revived an impressive population in the Negev, a result of intensive activities: raising awareness and educating the public and fighting the phenomenon of poisoning and electrocution, Hatzofe said. In this manner, we are also working to address this important issue in the Golan Heights and Judean Desert areas, where unfortunately, the number continues to remain low.

One particular threat to the vulture population in the Golan Heights is a plan to build a large wind turbine farm in the Tel Fares area, the INPA statement explained.

Over the past three-and-a-half months, INPA officials said they have been examining the flight activity of vultures in the Golan through GPS transmitters. Calculations based on these observations indicate that about 10% of the regions vultures will be affected by the future turbines, the statement said. That percentage is expected to be even higher, due to random events unaccounted for in the calculations, the authority added.

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority, together with other environmental and nature organizations such as the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, oppose plans to build a turbine farm in the area, in accordance with the proposed outline, and will work with the relevant authorities and institutions to change the permits granted for the advancement of the turbine construction plans, the statement said.

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Golan residents renounce Israeli plan to hold local elections – Al-Monitor

Members of the Druze community in Israeli-occupied Majdal Shams look at their friends and relatives (R) on the Syrian side of the border during a rally in the village, Majdal Shams, Golan Heights, Feb. 14, 2014.(photo byREUTERS/Baz Ratner)

Author:Ahmad Melhem Posted July 23, 2017

RAMALLAH, West Bank The people of the occupied Syrian Golan Heights have rejected the Israeli governments decision to hold local elections next year in four Golan villages: Majdal Shams, Bukata, Masada and Ein Qinya. To allow such elections, they said, would be to recognize the occupation.

TranslatorJoelle El-Khoury

Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri notified local Golan authorities July 6 of the decision to hold electionson Oct. 30, 2018. The elections would be the first under Israeli law since the Golan Heights was occupied in 1967. Israel has been accustomed to appointing local council heads and members in the Golan Heights, where nearly 23,000 people live. To many of those residents, there’s a big symbolic difference between appointed and elected leaders.

After a general meeting July 11, the Golanese issued a statementthat said, The Israeli goal behind the elections is to have the Golanese recognize the occupation as legitimate. They said, Israel has no right to impose its laws on the Syrian population and force it to give up its national identity.

Majd Abu Saleh, a lawyer opposing the Israeli decision, told Al-Monitor that under Israeli election laws, eligible candidates for local elections should have Israeli citizenship, which applies to only 5% of the Golanese. The rest carry Israeli IDs indicating permanent residency but they are not entitled to run for office. That negates any democratic principle of the elections, Abu Saleh said.

The Golanese perceive local councils elected in accordance with Israeli law to be representative of Israeli authorities. The elections are therefore a means to provide local authorities with political legitimacy, which is something we are against,” he said.

The population deals with the [Israeli-] appointed councils in terms of the services provided, and this is what we want. Their political stances, however, do not represent ours. Yet, if elected, the local councils will be entitled to represent us politically [and] those heading these councils will be pro-Israel.

Political activist Salman Fakhreddin told Al-Monitor, The Golanese deserve to have good civil services, which the occupation ought to provide under international law, without correlating these services with the populations political stances or national affiliation.

Fakhri Abu Saleh, the director of the Harmoon Center for Contemporary Studies Golan Salon, told Al-Monitor, The elections are designed to bring the Golan areas under Israeli law, which could ignite a dispute among its social components and will not bring any significant gains to the population.

In light of the rejection by the Golanese, he said, Presently, there is no alternative to the appointed councils. Services provided by the elected local councils [elsewhere] in the Arab world are no different from those provided to us. The thing is that we are under an occupation force that we do not recognize and that has a responsibility toward us.

As the interior ministers decision is binding, the Golanese are required to mobilize their capabilities to face it. Majd Abu Saleh said, We will be turning to the ministers to abolish said decision to meet the wishes of the Golanese. In case they do not act, we will be resorting to the courts to object to the decision.

He added, Whether it remains in force or is canceled, we have decided not to deal with it, or with the potential emanating local councils that would provide the occupation with legitimacy. If enforced, we will boycott it; the ballot boxes cannot not be placed in the Golan.

The Golanese believe Israel is trying to firmly establish control over the Golan. As Israel marked the 50th anniversary of the Golan Heights occupations and the beginning of the settlements, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said June 6, The Golan Heights will forever remain under Israeli sovereignty. We will never leave the Golan Heights. Its ours.

Syria also voiced objection to the elections, which it believes would violate international law. The Syrian Foreign Ministry delivered letters June 8 to both the UN Security Council and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressing its categorical rejection of the Israeli occupations declaration to hold the so-called local elections in the occupied Syrian Golan villages. It added, The new Israeli decisions consist of a flagrant violation of the UN Charter, international humanitarian law and the [Fourth] Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilian persons in time of war.

Majd Abu Saleh said Israel is “taking advantage of the Syrian crisis, while showing that the Golanese are well-integrated and harmonious with Israel.”

He said, “This is in order to support Netanyahu’s efforts to obtain the international recognition that will enable him to implement the Israeli laws in the Golan Heights.

Fakhreddin said, Israel desires to impose a new reality in the Golan Heights by holding the elections and taking advantage of the conflict in our motherland [Syria]. This is unacceptable for us. We are not trading our national and political positions for civil services.

The Israeli decision has reminded the Golanese of the open strike they staged Feb. 14, 1982, in protest against the Knesset decision to annex the Golan Heights and attempt to impose citizenship. The same scenario may be repeated in light of the populations objection. Israel could escalate measures to forcibly implement the decision, which could mean a confrontation is possible.

Read More: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/07/israeli-goal-behind-local-elections-golan-people-rejection.html

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Oil bonanza in Golan may help grease wheels for BRI | Asia Times – Asia Times

A burgeoning oil bonanza in the Golan Heights could be paving the way for China to strengthen its role as a peacekeeper in the troubled region, while at the same time smoothing the way for its Belt and Road Initiative. Since regional stability is key to Chinas continued access to Mideast energy sources and to push forward the BRI, Beijing is stepping up efforts to help resolve the Syrian crisis and the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It is becoming more proactive in supporting a negotiated political settlement in Syria, proposing atrilateral dialogueamong China, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and moving ahead with regional infrastructure projects inSyria,Jordanand Israel where it will be importing20,000infrastructure workers. The DailyBrief Must-reads from across Asia – directly to your inbox China is thus becoming a de facto regional stakeholder in the Middle East, as it is increasing resources to protect its growing portfolio of assets and citizens there. In July it deployed its first batch of troops to the new naval base inDjiboutito augment its ongoing United Nations peacekeeping presence in South Sudan(UNMISS) and Lebanon (UNIFIL), has offered8,000peacekeeping troops on permanent standby to conflict zones, and may join the GolansUNDOFin the future. In November 2015, Afek Oil and Gas, a subsidiary of the UScompany Genie Energy, discovered an oil bonanza in the Golan Heights with the potential of billions of barrels. In an interview with Israels Channel 2 News, Afek chief geologist Yuval Batov said the layer was 350 meters thick, which is 10 times as large asthe average oil find worldwide. Genie Energy managed to obtain exploratory licenses despite opposition from environmentaland local groups. These groups were concerned that drilling could pollute the largely unspoiled Golan countryside and the Sea of Galilee below, the source of most of Israels drinking water. Indeed, there is still an ongoing debate over which is more important to Israel,access to water or energy independence, as spelled out in a recent analysis at the Begin-Sadat Center. Moreover, the quality, quantity and cost-effectiveness of extraction are still unknown, while other legal and planning battles await. However, the biggest problems revolve around the issue of sovereignty. Israel annexed much of the Golan in 1981, but the heights are still regarded internationally as illegally occupied Syrian territory. In the past, Israels leaders have offered to pull back from the Golan, which was captured in 1967, in return for a comprehensive peace treaty with the Syrian government. However, any such deal has been ruled out since Syria began disintegrating in 2011, and now there are efforts to demand recognition of Israeli control of the 1,200 square kilometers it occupieson the Golan. Israels defense of the Golan intensified in June when it was caught in the crossfire between the Syrian Army and armed opposition forces in that country. After a mortar shell landed in the Golan, the Israeli Air Force attacked Syrian Army positions in the village of Samadanieh al Sharqiyah in Quneitra province. Israel also supports a rebel group called Knights of the Golan as a buffer force to keep the Syrian Army and Iran-backed Hezbollah at bay, adding to the complex and delicate environment in which Genie Energy needs to navigate on the Golan. Nonetheless, there is another potential oil bounty that is within Israels territory and has escaped much media attention Zion Oil & Gass exploration of the Megiddo-Jezreel Valley. Since 2005 Texas-based Zion Oil has been drilling near Haifa for potential 484 million barrels of oil, which geologists confirmed in 2004 to contain Triassic oil and gas fields. Now, Zion Oil holds the Megiddo-Jezreel Petroleum Exploration License that comprises approximately 40,000 hectares, and is drilling about 42 kilometers south of the recent Genie oil discovery. On November 6, 2015, Zion Oil announced the public release of a resource assessment report, with estimated prospective recoverable oil volumes ranging from 20.7 million to 234.6 million barrels. If a discovery is made, the best estimate for recoverable hydrocarbons is at 69.7 million barrels. Add to this the offshore natural-gas fields of Leviathan and Tamar in the Levantine basin, and the newly discovered oil and gas bounty could enable Israel to become an important energy exporter not just in the region, but also to Asian markets such asChina and India. Interestingly for regional actors such as Syria and Israel, Chinese UN peacekeeping troops may be more acceptable in the Golan, given that in 2006 Beijing sent 1,000 troops to Lebanon at the request of the Israelis. This is because Israel did not want Arab troops onits border, and preferred Asian troops from China, India, South Korea and the Philippines, as they were deemed to be more impartial in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Chinese reinforcements in UNDOF (the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force) may thus alsoserve as a confidence-building and effective buffer force between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights, given Chinas good relations with both sides, and perhaps providea testing ground for constructive US-China relations in the Mideast, with eventual joint benefits of the new oil bonanza. Dr. Christina Lin is a Nonresident Fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at SAIS-Johns Hopkins University specializing in China-Middle East/Mediterranean relations, and a research consultant for Jane’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Intelligence Centre at IHS Markit. continue reading

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Russia Deploys Troops to Syria-Israel Border, Prepares to Build … – TheTower.org

Russia has begun moving troops to the Golan Heights border in preparation for a new military base in the area, according to Lebanese media sources. The Al Mayadeen news channel reported that the Russian troops have replaced some Syrian army forces in the area, which has been a rebel stronghold throughout the civil war. Online newspaper Al-Masdar News reported on Monday that over 400 Russian soldiers were deployed to the Daraa and Quneitra governorates in southern Syria to begin their policing effort. Russian soldiers have been tasked with maintaining the ceasefire between the Syrian Armed Forces and rebels in the governorates. The new Russian troop deployment follows reports on July 26th that Russian military police were deployed to monitor two safe zones, one of which was located eight miles from the Golan Heights. On July 9th, a new ceasefire agreement in southern Syria came into effect. It was brokered between the U.S. and Russia, with the support of Jordan. The ceasefire was announced after a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, during the G20 Summit in Germany. It affects the regions of Deraa and Suweida, along the Jordanian border, as well as Quneitra, near the border between Syria and the Israeli Golan Heights. Following the announcement of the ceasefire, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel opposed the agreement because it perpetuates the Iranian presence in the country. Israels main concerns revolve around keeping Iran, Hezbollah, and Shiite militias away from the Israeli and Jordanian borders, and preventing Iran from gaining a foothold in Syria. Israels security cabinet was reportedly briefed this week that U.S. and Russia have yet to agree on who would guarantee the arrangements in the de-escalation zones, prevent the entry of Iranian, Hezbollah, or Shiite militia forces, and monitor the ceasefire. (via BICOM) [Photo: BICOM]

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Russia said deploying troops to Syrian Golan Heights | Live Updates … – The Times of Israel (blog)

Russia is deploying troops to southern Syria, near the Israeli border, Ynet reports citing reports in Arabic-language media. According to the Lebanese-based Al Mayadeen news channel, Russia is building a military base in the area of Quneitra and Daraa, on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. The report says the Syrian army is withdrawing from the area, which has been a rebel stronghold throughout the bloody civil war. View all entries for this Live Blog

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August 2, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Groups demand Israel removes army outposts and minefields from occupied Syrian town – WAFA – Palestine News Agency

Groups demand Israel removes army outposts and minefields from occupied Syrian town HAIFA, August 2, 2017 (WAFA) – Adalah The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and Al-Marsad Arab Human Rights Centre in the Golan Heights sent a letter to senior Israeli military officials on 30 July demanding that they evacuate Israeli military outposts and minefields from the occupied Syrian town of Majdal Shams located on the Golan Heights, a press release said on Wednesday. The military outposts, constructed after Israel occupied the Golan Heights in 1967, are situated on dozens of acres belonging to Majdal Shams residents. The outposts, and the associated minefields which surround the outposts and the town itself, are located directly adjacent to residential homes and the some 11,000 civilians who live there. Adalah Attorney Muna Haddad and Al-Marsad Attorney Karama Abu Saleh wrote in their letter that the military outposts and minefields present a direct danger to Majdal Shams residents. “Their very presence near the town endangers the lives of town residents in an illegal manner Fields of anti-personnel landmines have been placed around the outposts and the town itself. These mines pose a most serious danger to the residents as they cannot be easily identified, they drift beyond the [marked] minefields particularly during the winter months, and move towards the town’s homes and orchards. Some of the mines even explode as a result of summer heat. Over the years, many village residents particularly children have tragically been harmed by exploding mines.” Israel’s failure to remove the minefields and the military outposts is a violation of international humanitarian law, Adalah and Al-Marsad said. “Israel’s actions on the Golan Heights are subject to international humanitarian law. Article 43 of the Hague Convention stipulates that an occupying force’s primary factor when considering any action is its benefit to the local civilian population, and [this article] obligates protection of the residents of the occupied territory. Article 46 further requires protection of the lives and property of the local population.” Al-Marsad appealed more than four years ago to the Israeli Defense Ministry which committed at that time to removing mines from the area. In 2013, Israel began to clear mines on Al Rihani hill in Majdal Shams but stopped before the work was completed and Israeli authorities have since failed to respond to further appeals from Al-Marsad. Israel has occupied Majdal Shams since 1967. In 1981, Israel annexed the village, along with the other small Syrian villages of Ein Qiniyye, Mas’ade and Buq’ata, under the Golan Heights Law. Most inhabitants of Majdal Shams hold permanency residency status in Israel, as do Palestinians residents of East Jerusalem. Since 1967, it is estimated that at least 69 civilian residents of the Golan Heights have been wounded by land mines. Among these, 18 died, half of whom were children. Israeli civilians, Israeli soldiers and tourists have also been victims of landmines, however, accurate figures on casualties are difficult to obtain. More than 9,000 acres the equivalent of over 6,000 soccer fields are suspected to be mined in the Golan Heights, distributed over around 2,000 minefields that vary greatly in size. The mines are mostly found in grazing areas, agricultural land, along the ceasefire border, and in nature reserves. There are two mine fields within Majdal Shams itself. Adalah and Al-Marsad demand the immediate removal of Israeli military outposts and minefields from Majdal Shams and its lands. M.K.

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Man marooned at sea for five days – Ynetnews

A 68-year-old resident of the Golan Heights who left England and set sail alone to Israel on a yacht was stranded 16 km from Israel for five days. After marine police towed him to land, he told Ynet: “I didn’t get much sleep; just an hour or two here and there. I was really anxious to make it to land. “I was marooned ten miles from Israel’s beach. I asked passing ships to let my family know I’m okay.” The stranded yacht and its operator (Photo: Israel Police) A series of malfunctions at sea caused the Golan Heights resident to be stuck at sea. The last malfunction took place when the yacht’s engine died 16 km from the shore, and he had spent the last five days trying to establish contact with someone who could take him home. “I suffered from a lack of sleep. I woke up every 20 minutes looking for passing ships. Five days ago, when I was getting closer to Israel, my steering system malfunctioned and then, just ten miles from shore, the engine completely died,” he added. “During this trip his engine and sails malfunctioned, and he was marooned at sea,” Dahan added. “As soon as he reached Israel’s maritime border, the coastal district marine patrol received a report from the Navy about his yacht. Marine patrol went out to find the vessel with all haste and found it, and the person aboardwho was in dire mental straits.” Photo: Israel Police

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‘Naive’: Israel Rules Out Handing Over Golan Heights to Syria – Sputnik International

Israeli Ambassador to Russia Gary Koren said in an interview with Sputnik on Tuesday that Israel is not going to negotiate on the issue of the Golan Heights that were seized by Israelis from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War. MOSCOW (Sputnik) Israel does not plan onreturning the country’s northern Golan Heights region toSyria, Koren told Sputnik, commenting onthe central roadblock inlong-standing conflict betweenIsrael and Syria. “According toour legislation, the Golan Heights are an independent part withinIsrael. If anyone keeps thinking that this question has yet tobe discussed, it is naive ofthem. In the past, duringthe tenure of [former Israeli Prime Minister] Ehud Barak’s government, we tried tohold talks, explore the opportunity oftalks with [former Syrian president] Hafez Assad, butit did not take us anywhere. Well, thank God it failed. If we had returned the Golan Heights, we would now have Hezbollah and Iranian soldiers overthe the Kinneret lake,” Koren said. Sputnik/ Valeriy Melnikov Iran and its allies, including Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah movement, support President Bashar Assad’s government inthe civil war inSyria. Israel regards Iran asits number one threat, pointing atTehran’s curtailed, yet existing, nuclear program, its hostile rhetoric and support offered toanti-Israel forces throughoutthe Middle East.

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Netanyahu warns Iran filling the void left by IS in Golan – The Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said that Iran is seeking to replace the Islamic State terror group in the Golan Heights in order to create a new front against Israel. The situation here is changing rapidly, IS is in retreat, but Iran is seeking to fill the void, he said during a tour of the Golan Heights with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot. Iran together with Hezbollah are creating a northern arc here, with the help of precision weapons. We are dealing with these new threats to the State of Israel. We are paying close attention to a range of threats to the State of Israel, he added. Netanyahu has warned repeatedly of Iranian attempts to establish military infrastructure with which to threaten Israel from the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, recently telling a number of Central European leaders that Iran, via its proxies, have and are still trying to create a terror front against Israel there. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman tour the northern border in the Golan Heights, on July 25, 2017. (Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90) Israel has repeatedly said it will not allow Iran to set up a permanent presence in Syria and has carried out a number of airstrikes in Syria against suspected shipments of game-changing weapons bound for the Hezbollah terror group. Earlier this month, Netanyahu said that he opposes the deal brokered by the United States and Russia that led to an open-ended ceasefire in southern Syria, saying it does not sufficiently address Iranian military ambitions in the area. The prime minister said that while the plan aims to keep Iran 20 kilometers (12 miles) away from the Israeli border, it did not address Irans plans to cement its presence in Syria, which, he said, included the establishment of a naval and air force bases. Apprehensions over Iranian designs in the region were further stoked by recent movements of Shiite Muslim militias loyal to Iran and fighting alongside Syrian government forces toward Jordans border with Syria, and to another strategic area in the southeast, close to where the two countries meet Iraq. In addition to Israel, a number of Sunni countries in the area have also warned against Iranian efforts to establish a Shiite crescent stretching from Tehran to Beirut via its allies in Baghdad and Damascus, with which to pursue its regional ambitions. Agencies contributed to this report.

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July 25, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Israeli vulture population on the rise – The Jerusalem Post

Israeli Vultures . (photo credit:YORAM SHAPIR) After years of continuous decline, Israels vulture population is once again on the rise. As of the end of June, vultures in Israel numbered about 180, up from 128 in 2010, as they continue to return to their habitats in the Carmel region and the Negev Desert, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority reported on Monday. While that figure is still staggeringly low in comparison to the 460 individuals recorded in 2003, INPA nesting and rehabilitation projects have enabled the survival of the birds as they return to their former strongholds. This is the first time in more than a decade that the population of vultures in Israel has reached a positive balance, at such a rate, said INPA avian ecologist, Ohad Hatzofe. About 66% of Israels 180 vultures reside in the Negev, while another 34% inhabit the Carmel region and the Golan Heights, according to the INPA. The Negev region has experienced a particularly strong increase in population size, with the number of nests particularly rising in the Ramon Crater area, a statement from the authority said. The assessment of Israels vulture population occurred as part of annual survey within the Spreading Wings Project a conservation program run with the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, to protect the countrys dwindling vulture community. The number of vultures may pale in comparison to the 460 soaring through Israels skies in 2003, but the population has been increasing in the Negev and stabilizing in the Carmel since 2010, according to the INPA. This year alone, successful nesting in the Negev and Carmel will lead to another 25 individuals in these areas, while 12 other animals are being released from a breeding center, Hatzofe explained. All in all, the Israeli vulture population in 2017 is expected to experience three times more births than deaths, he added. While ecologists are optimistic about the return of the birds to the Negev and Carmel, the situation remains dire for Israels vultures in the Golan Heights and the Judean Desert. Just as we have succeeded in restoring the population of vultures in the Carmel region from zero to 40, we have revived an impressive population in the Negev, a result of intensive activities: raising awareness and educating the public and fighting the phenomenon of poisoning and electrocution, Hatzofe said. In this manner, we are also working to address this important issue in the Golan Heights and Judean Desert areas, where unfortunately, the number continues to remain low. One particular threat to the vulture population in the Golan Heights is a plan to build a large wind turbine farm in the Tel Fares area, the INPA statement explained. Over the past three-and-a-half months, INPA officials said they have been examining the flight activity of vultures in the Golan through GPS transmitters. Calculations based on these observations indicate that about 10% of the regions vultures will be affected by the future turbines, the statement said. That percentage is expected to be even higher, due to random events unaccounted for in the calculations, the authority added. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority, together with other environmental and nature organizations such as the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, oppose plans to build a turbine farm in the area, in accordance with the proposed outline, and will work with the relevant authorities and institutions to change the permits granted for the advancement of the turbine construction plans, the statement said. Share on facebook

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Golan residents renounce Israeli plan to hold local elections – Al-Monitor

Members of the Druze community in Israeli-occupied Majdal Shams look at their friends and relatives (R) on the Syrian side of the border during a rally in the village, Majdal Shams, Golan Heights, Feb. 14, 2014.(photo byREUTERS/Baz Ratner) Author:Ahmad Melhem Posted July 23, 2017 RAMALLAH, West Bank The people of the occupied Syrian Golan Heights have rejected the Israeli governments decision to hold local elections next year in four Golan villages: Majdal Shams, Bukata, Masada and Ein Qinya. To allow such elections, they said, would be to recognize the occupation. TranslatorJoelle El-Khoury Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri notified local Golan authorities July 6 of the decision to hold electionson Oct. 30, 2018. The elections would be the first under Israeli law since the Golan Heights was occupied in 1967. Israel has been accustomed to appointing local council heads and members in the Golan Heights, where nearly 23,000 people live. To many of those residents, there’s a big symbolic difference between appointed and elected leaders. After a general meeting July 11, the Golanese issued a statementthat said, The Israeli goal behind the elections is to have the Golanese recognize the occupation as legitimate. They said, Israel has no right to impose its laws on the Syrian population and force it to give up its national identity. Majd Abu Saleh, a lawyer opposing the Israeli decision, told Al-Monitor that under Israeli election laws, eligible candidates for local elections should have Israeli citizenship, which applies to only 5% of the Golanese. The rest carry Israeli IDs indicating permanent residency but they are not entitled to run for office. That negates any democratic principle of the elections, Abu Saleh said. The Golanese perceive local councils elected in accordance with Israeli law to be representative of Israeli authorities. The elections are therefore a means to provide local authorities with political legitimacy, which is something we are against,” he said. The population deals with the [Israeli-] appointed councils in terms of the services provided, and this is what we want. Their political stances, however, do not represent ours. Yet, if elected, the local councils will be entitled to represent us politically [and] those heading these councils will be pro-Israel. Political activist Salman Fakhreddin told Al-Monitor, The Golanese deserve to have good civil services, which the occupation ought to provide under international law, without correlating these services with the populations political stances or national affiliation. Fakhri Abu Saleh, the director of the Harmoon Center for Contemporary Studies Golan Salon, told Al-Monitor, The elections are designed to bring the Golan areas under Israeli law, which could ignite a dispute among its social components and will not bring any significant gains to the population. In light of the rejection by the Golanese, he said, Presently, there is no alternative to the appointed councils. Services provided by the elected local councils [elsewhere] in the Arab world are no different from those provided to us. The thing is that we are under an occupation force that we do not recognize and that has a responsibility toward us. As the interior ministers decision is binding, the Golanese are required to mobilize their capabilities to face it. Majd Abu Saleh said, We will be turning to the ministers to abolish said decision to meet the wishes of the Golanese. In case they do not act, we will be resorting to the courts to object to the decision. He added, Whether it remains in force or is canceled, we have decided not to deal with it, or with the potential emanating local councils that would provide the occupation with legitimacy. If enforced, we will boycott it; the ballot boxes cannot not be placed in the Golan. The Golanese believe Israel is trying to firmly establish control over the Golan. As Israel marked the 50th anniversary of the Golan Heights occupations and the beginning of the settlements, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said June 6, The Golan Heights will forever remain under Israeli sovereignty. We will never leave the Golan Heights. Its ours. Syria also voiced objection to the elections, which it believes would violate international law. The Syrian Foreign Ministry delivered letters June 8 to both the UN Security Council and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressing its categorical rejection of the Israeli occupations declaration to hold the so-called local elections in the occupied Syrian Golan villages. It added, The new Israeli decisions consist of a flagrant violation of the UN Charter, international humanitarian law and the [Fourth] Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilian persons in time of war. Majd Abu Saleh said Israel is “taking advantage of the Syrian crisis, while showing that the Golanese are well-integrated and harmonious with Israel.” He said, “This is in order to support Netanyahu’s efforts to obtain the international recognition that will enable him to implement the Israeli laws in the Golan Heights. Fakhreddin said, Israel desires to impose a new reality in the Golan Heights by holding the elections and taking advantage of the conflict in our motherland [Syria]. This is unacceptable for us. We are not trading our national and political positions for civil services. The Israeli decision has reminded the Golanese of the open strike they staged Feb. 14, 1982, in protest against the Knesset decision to annex the Golan Heights and attempt to impose citizenship. The same scenario may be repeated in light of the populations objection. Israel could escalate measures to forcibly implement the decision, which could mean a confrontation is possible. Read More: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/07/israeli-goal-behind-local-elections-golan-people-rejection.html

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July 23, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed


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