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The Syrian Ceasefire in the Golan Is Good for Israel LobeLog – LobeLog

byShemuel Meir

The dramatic announcement by presidents Trump and Putin ofa ceasefire in south-west Syriaearlier this month was greeted in Israel with skepticism. Official Israel wasnt impressed with the agreement reached by the two superpowers to establish and enforce a buffer zone on Israels northern border in the Golan Heights, free of all military activity.

In the first Israeli cabinet meeting held after the ceasefire agreement was announced, Prime Minister BenjaminNetanyahu spoke in stipulations: Israel will welcome a genuine ceasefire in Syria but this ceasefire must not enable the establishment of a military presence by Iran and its proxies in Syria in general and in southern Syria in particular. One week later, at a press briefing in Paris, Netanyahu called the ceasefire a bad deal and declared Israels opposition to it.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman was even more scathing. Israel is not obligated by the ceasefire deal and reserves absolute freedom of action to respond to developments on the ground as it sees fit,according to Liberman, irrespective of the understandings reached between Trump and Putin.

Most of the analysis in Israel fell in line with Netanyahu and Liberman, minimizing the agreement and ignoring any strategic value it might have for Israel. That is a mistake. There is more than meets the eye in this agreement.

Even if the ceasefire agreement doesnt fully address the entire enforcement arrangement, it does indicate American involvement in Syria in the era that follows the routing of ISIS and the conquering of itsde factocapital, Raqqa. The agreement, therefore, should alleviate Israels concerns about the vacuum that would be created if the Americans left, which would negatively affect the situation in the Golan Heights.

The ceasefire agreement also came at a critical point in time for Israel. The calm fostered on the ground helped prevent Israel being dragged into the war by miscalculation or unplanned military escalation.

Several days in a row in June2017, we saw dailyreportsof the IDF attacking Syrian military targets in response to artillery or mortar fire into Israeli-controlled territory. The routine of errant shells falling in Israeli territory now included an automatic IDF response, including official statements along the lines of, Israel wont accept any violations of its sovereignty. The prime ministerpromisedstrong responses, and thats what happened.

Despite repeated declarations that Israel has no interest in being dragged into the war in Syria, a doctrine of maintaining operational freedom and automatic military responses to errant fire was ultimately likely to bring about unplanned results. There is no deterrence in this scenario, because it is unclear how one is supposed to deter a party who isnt trying to strike you in the first place. Contrarily, massive responses that kill Syrian army officers and soldiers are likely to hasten an undesirable escalation. Under circumstances of existing military friction, it is always hard to know when and how two parties will cross the threshold of low-intensity conflict into something more serious.

At the same time, another risky development was taking place: a demand from the field to increase the humanitarian and medical aid that Israel provides Islamist rebel groups, and introduce more military elements. For example, creating an Israeli-enforced security zone like the one it held in southern Lebanon, gradually and unintentionally getting sucked into a military confrontation with the Syrian army.

And thats where Iran comes into the picture. Netanyahu hasdeclared red linesin Syria more than once, at least one of which is geographic: preventing Iran gaining a foothold in the Golan Heights. Publicly declared red lines and using military force against Assads army in the Golan were meant to draw a line in the sand, and sending a message to the other side, including Iran, not to cross it.

But are automatic military responses that could lead to unplanned and undesirable results really necessary? Sometimes less is more. More so, Netanyahus messages and red lines have already been heard and his geographic red lines achieved the desired result. Iran got Israels deterrent message loud and clear when the latter killed a Revolutionary Guard general who was touring the Golan in January 2015 it doesnt come near anymore. Israel and Iran have not been involved in any confrontation in the Golan since, and there is no Iranian military presence there. A military analysis of the situation shows that Iran was not enthusiastic about a direct confrontation with Israel. The deterrence is working, and the red lines are holding.

That, and more. In the press briefing in Paris in whichNetanyahu declaredhis rejection of the ceasefire deal, he also basically admitted that there is no Iranian military presence in the Golan Heights. The Israeli prime minister revealed that the agreement forbids any Iranian military presence within 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the border of the Israeli-controlled half of the Golan Heights, thereby acknowledging for the first time that Iranian forces are closer to Damascus than they are to Israel. We can assume that Iran through the Russians gave its tacit approval to the diplomatic arrangement that bars its troops from the Golan Heights. That is an important contribution to the stability of that area and a strategic accomplishment for Israel. A diplomatic agreement that is in line and affirms the military situation.

Netanyahus maximalist argument against the Russian-American-brokered ceasefire deal in the Golan Heights is that it perpetuates an Iranian military presence in the rest of Syria. But his argument presumes if and isnt reflective of anything on the ground. Along those lines, we continue to hear a term that has gained popularity as if it were some unquestioned strategic accord: the Shiite Crescent, a supposed territorially contiguous corridor of Iranian military control from Tehran all the way to the Mediterranean Sea (around 1,400 km, or 870 miles). Perhaps it is a nice concept on paper, but its very difficult to see how one realizes a crescent of Shiite control and how one creates an Iranian corridor on the ground in such a broad area and chaotic area so vulnerable to terrorist groups. And all that using the limited power of the Iranian army and air force?

The Shiite Crescent is a nice metaphor but reality on the ground is entirely different. Dont forget that Iran was forced to bring home a large part of its Revolutionary Guard forces that it sent in the earlier stages of the Syrian War and replaced them with mercenary militias from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

But back to diplomacy. Wars end in conferences or in diplomatic formulations and that is the direction one can see for Syria from the Russian-American agreement. The diplomatic arrangement inside sovereign Syrian territory through the creation buffer zones (de-escalation zones in diplomatic terms) by the two major powers is preferable for Israel over relying solely on military forces and a doctrine of setting red lines. The rules of the game of sending signals and deterrence are inherently elusive and likely to collapse unexpectedly. It is preferable, therefore, to incorporate the rules of the diplomatic game and diplomatic arrangements, which are far more durable.

Furthermore, in the event of an escalation into warfare on the Syrian side of the Golan, Israel would be hard-pressed to find any international legitimacy for exercising a large-scale military option like a preventivestrike in sovereign Syrian territory from the territory it controls on the other side of the Golan. Lets not forget that the world rejected Israels annexation of the Israeli side of the Golan, which it considers null and void according toUN Security Council Resolution 497. Every single plan that the international community has formulated to end the civil war in Syria includes some variation of an opening clause declaring the need to preserve Syrias territorial integrity, which is one of the only points upon which both the Assad regime and the rebels both agree.

Israels security interests first and foremost focus on those areas abutting its borders. Therefore, it is better for Israel to join the American-Russian process of resolving the war in Syria. Even if such arrangements mean the return of the Syrian side of the Golan Heights to the control of the Damascus regime. In such a scenario, the American-Russian agreement is likely to rehabilitate and strengthen the UN troops in the Golan Heights (UNDOF) which has been there since the ceasefire that ended the Yom Kippur War in 1974. The UN observer force, whose mandate is to supervise demilitarized zones in the Golan Heights, could gain new momentum this time with regards to the indirect agreement with Iran. A renewed (and reinforced) UNDOF mission is the answer to the question that so bothers Israel: who will monitor the de-escalation zone along its border onthe Golan Heights.

A diplomatic process jointly led by the Americans and Russians, and the tacit and indirect agreement with Iran to re-demilitarize the Golan Heights, could make a the best contribution to creating a stability we dont have today. From Israels perspective, that means distancing Iranian military forces from the Golan Heights and minimizing the risk of an unplanned and undesired military escalation.

Shemuel Meir is a former IDF analyst and associate researcher at the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University. Today he is an independent researcher on nuclear and strategic issues and author of theStrategic Discourse blog, which appears inHaaretz. Read this post in Hebrewhere. Reprinted, with permission, from +972 Magazine. Photo: Israeli Defense Forces on a drill in the Golan Heights (Wikimedia Commons).

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July 21, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Israeli Aid Gives an Unexpected ‘Glimmer of Hope’ for Syrians – New York Times

The aid creates a positive awareness of Israel on the Syrian side, said Col. Barak Hiram, the commanding officer of Israels 474 Golan Brigade, adding that it could lay the first seeds of some form of future agreement.

Most of the supplies are donated by Israeli and foreign nongovernmental organizations, while the Israeli government has footed the bill for medical treatment. According to the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees, a New York-based network of organizations involved in the aid effort, Israel has also become an efficient, if unlikely, staging area for Syrian aid groups operating abroad that, facilitated by the Israeli military, are now shipping goods into Syria through Israeli ports.

The extent of the project became known days after the United States and Russia announced a cease-fire agreement for southern Syria, territory that includes the areas covered by Operation Good Neighbor, and after President Trumps cancellation of the clandestine and failing American program to provide arms and supplies to Syrian rebel groups.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking to Israeli reporters during a trip to Europe this week, said he was utterly opposed to the cease-fire deal because of concerns that it would allow Shiite militias backed by Israels archenemy, Iran, to dig in close to its borders.

Netanyahu is upset because the Jordanians were told that the Shiite militias would be kept 40 kilometers from their border, said Ehud Yaari, an Israeli analyst and fellow of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Israel did not get the same promise. We were left out.

But discussions about the cease-fire are continuing, Mr. Yaari said, and the Israeli protests seemed aimed at trying to shape the outcome.

Israel says it maintains a policy of nonintervention in Syrias civil war, which began in 2011. But it has frequently bombed convoys and stores of weapons destined for Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia fighting in Syria on behalf of Mr. Assad. On other occasions, it has retaliated against Syrian government positions for the spillover of errant fire into the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.

According to Israeli military officials, extremist groups associated with the Islamic State control about 20 percent of the territory along the Syrian side of the Golan boundary, concentrated in the south. A mlange of other Sunni rebel groups, including affiliates of Al Qaeda, control an additional 65 percent, while the Syrian Army, Shiite allies and Druze loyalists control about 15 percent in the north.

Israeli analysts say it can be assumed that cash, ammunition and intelligence assets also pass through the fence on the Golan Heights, the strategic plateau that Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 war. A recent Wall Street Journal article quoted local Syrian rebels saying that they regularly received cash for salaries and weapons as part of the Israeli effort to push hostile forces from the border villages. Israel has not explicitly denied the report, and the military would not comment.

But Israeli military officials insist that Operation Good Neighbor deals purely with humanitarian aid and that they would not jeopardize the emerging climate of cooperation or taint it by mixing in weapons transfers and intelligence gathering.

Since Israel and Syria are technically in a state of war and have no diplomatic relations, Israel has not taken in masses of Syrian refugees as other countries have done. Even a government proposal to bring in 100 orphaned Syrian children was dropped.

Still, many Israelis have expressed distress over standing by as the humanitarian disaster has unfolded in Syria, which is what motivated the military to undertake the operation, officials said.

Syrians wounded in the fighting first arrived at the Israeli border fence early in 2013, desperate for help.

We faced a dilemma, said Dr. Noam Fink, the chief medical officer of the Israeli militarys northern command. The decision was made by our commanders and our government to allow them to enter the country and to give them full medical treatment.

Since then, with medical facilities in war-ravaged towns and villages barely functioning, Israel has treated about 4,000 war-wounded or sick Syrians.

Israel says it is now getting aid to an area inhabited by about 200,000 Syrians, including around 400 displaced families living in tent encampments along the international boundary, and is helping equip new clinics in the area.

So far the strategy is working, said Amos Harel, the military affairs analyst for the newspaper Haaretz, noting the relative quiet along the Israeli-Syrian cease-fire line. It is an intelligent policy. It is not only altruistic.

Georgette Bennett, who founded the Multifaith Alliance in 2013, said her network had the ability to reach deeper on the Syrian side, covering an area of 1.5 million Syrians. The cooperation between Israelis and Syrians is a great glimmer of hope coming out of this tragedy, said Ms. Bennett, a Hungarian-born former refugee and the daughter of Holocaust survivors.

The alliances director of humanitarian relief and regional relations, Shadi Martini, is a Syrian who said he managed a hospital in Aleppo, a city that has been an epicenter of the war, before fleeing the country in 2012. When he first heard about the Israelis aid, he said: It was a very big shock to me. Syrians were brought up to fear Israelis as the devil who wants to kill us and take our land.

Speaking by telephone from Michigan, where he now lives, Mr. Martini said he had since visited Israel five times to push for, and coordinate, the effort with the Israeli military. It has struck a chord with a lot of Syrians, he said. This is supposed to be our enemy.

While some Syrians still have reservations about receiving aid from Israel, he added: It is not the monster they told us it was. People have started looking at it differently.

An earlier version of this article mischaracterized Georgette Bennett, who founded the Multifaith Alliance. She is the daughter of Holocaust survivors, not a Holocaust survivor herself.

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July 20, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Israel Escalates Threats Against Iran – Haaretz

Ex-national security adviser warns that Israel must prevent Iranian infrastructure in Syria at any cost. The explicit threat to Iran and Hezbollah is not an official declaration, but foreign governments will find it hard to ignore

Israel must prevent Iran from building bases in Syria at any cost, a former national security adviser who retains influence in the Prime Ministers Office said this week.

Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror was speaking at a briefing for foreign correspondents organized by the nonprofit group the Israel Project.

The implications of the Iranians building bases in Syria, Amidror said, is that it creates launching-pad bases in Syria to Hezbollah and the Iranians. And Israel should prevent it whatever will be the price.

If that will not be taken into account by the those who are making those arrangements the Americans, the Russians and others that might lead the IDF to intervene and destroy every attempt to build infrastructure in Syria, he continued, referring to the Israel Defense Forces. We will not let the Iranians and Hezbollah be the forces which will win from the long and very brutal war in Syria and move the focus into Israel.

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Asked whether Israel would have the freedom to operate in Syria in such a manner, Amidror replied, I dont see who will stop it. I mean, if that is in the interest of Israel, we should strive to be sure that our interests will be kept.

Though Amidror currently holds no official government position, he still has ties to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and retains a degree of influence on certain issues. Thus it is reasonable to assume that foreign governments that follow events in the region would note such remarks.

Its also convenient for Netanyahu to have such statements come from Amidror. That way, the explicit threat against Iran and Hezbollah isnt perceived as being an official Israeli one, yet at the same time its hard to ignore.

Rapping the cease-fire deal

Amidrors remarks came one day after Netanyahu publicly criticized a cease-fire agreement brokered by Russia and the United States in southern Syria. In a briefing for Israeli journalists during Netanyahus visit to Paris, he and people identified only as senior officials voiced two reservations about the deal.

First, Israel believes it essentially acquiesces to Irans presence in Syria, which already includes bases for ground forces, thousands of fighters from various Shiite militias and advanced plans for setting up air and naval bases in the country. Second, Israel is skeptical of the agreements stated commitment to keep Iranian and Hezbollah forces about 20 miles from its border in the Golan Heights.

Israel doesnt believe that Russian troops, which are responsible for enforcing the agreement, will actually prevent Iranian forces from approaching the border. Over the past few days, Russian Military Police units have been spotted near the town of Daraa in southern Syria, apparently to help enforce the cease-fire. But Israel is still trying to determine exactly how Russia plans to supervise activities by the Assad regime and its allies, including Iran and Hezbollah.

In response to Netanyahus remarks, Russia hastened to issue a soothing statement. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the cease-fire deal in southern Syria had taken Israels security needs into account, and that the agreement would be implemented in coordination with Israel.

Meanwhile, Israel has resumed its campaign of diplomatic warnings on a neighboring front, the Lebanese border. On Tuesday, the IDF released new video footage of intelligence operations by Hezbollah along the border, in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

This footage comes almost a month after Israel complained to the United Nations about similar Hezbollah activities along the border. Israel also revealed last month that Iran had set up weapons plants for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The explanation for Israels moves on the Lebanese front is obvious. The Security Council will soon hold its periodic debate on the implementation of Resolution 1701 and the extension of UNIFILs mandate in southern Lebanon. Israel thus has an interest in exposing Hezbollahs violations, as well as what it describes as UNIFILs apathy to or deliberate disregard of these violations.

This would push the UN peacekeeping force to be more aggressive in its dealings with Hezbollah and also lay the public-diplomacy groundwork should a military conflict erupt in Lebanon.

Clashing with Trump

But developments along the Syrian border have an even greater potential for drama. Though its doubtful Israel will attack Iranian bases in Syria the next morning, as Amidrors words might seem to imply, theres clearly a point of friction over which Netanyahu, for the first time, has been willing to publicly clash with the Trump administration.

Israels suspicions about Washingtons conduct in the Syrian theater relate to several issues: Russian-American coordination, which Israel sees as being dictated mainly by Moscow; the emerging American plan to reduce its military presence in the region once the Islamic State is defeated in its Syrian capital of Raqqa; and Trumps apparent acceptance of Irans growing role in Syria.

The administrations announcement, two years after the nuclear deal was signed with Iran, that Tehran is honoring its commitment to freeze its nuclear program also apparently made Netanyahu uncomfortable. Until then, President Donald Trump had sounded much more forceful and suspicious toward Iran than some of his top officials.

Washington hastened to give itself a bit of cover for that relatively positive statement toward Tehran by announcing new sanctions against 18 Iranian individuals and organizations in response to Irans support for terror in the Middle East, its aid to the Assad regime in Syria and its ballistic-missile development.

These conflicting messages from Washington, coupled with the Israeli warnings, reveal that both the Syrian and Iranian situations are fluid. That apparently is why Israel is applying pressure in the hope of spurring the Americans to improve the agreement they reached in a way that would make it better for Israel.

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Concern for Irish troops in Syria as Russia and US plan safe zone – thejournal.ie

Fighting in recent weeks came so close to the UNDOF camp that Irish troops were forced to take cover inside.

Fighting in recent weeks came so close to the UNDOF camp that Irish troops were forced to take cover inside.

CONCERN HAS BEEN expressed about Irish troops based in Syria after recent fighting closeto their camp and developments that have seen the United States and Russia negotiating the terms of a safe zone in the area.

In the first week of this month, clashes between rebel groups and government forces in Syria came so close to the Irish camp that troops had to take cover as gun fire landed inside the base.

A ceasefire in southern Syria was brokered by the US, Russia and Jordan on Friday and it has been reported that they reached an agreement on the creation of a safe zone, which would allow refugees who fled Jordan to return. It would also facilitate the access ofhumanitarian aid.

However, it is possible armed Syrian rebels will police this new safe zone, with the backing of American and Russian troops, which would significantly change the dynamics of the situation and could lead to further tensions.

The mandate of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) is to maintain the ceasefire between the Israeli and Syrian forces, which means keeping weapons out of the Golan Heights. The terms of this new safe zone could impact on this mission.

Now Irish soldiers in Syria and a number of politicians at home are asking what the government here is doing to involve itself in ongoing negotiations that will ultimately impact on members of its Defence Forces and the job they have been sent there to do.

There are concerns about the involvement of Russian and US forces. Source: Irish Defence Forces via Flickr

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Sinn Fin TD Aengus Snodaigh said the UNDOF mandate now urgently needs to be reviewed.

When the circumstances on the ground change in such a dramatic fashion and the Russians are involved, you have to look again at whether its appropriate for us to be there in the firstplace. We need to look at whether we need to consider withdrawing, do we need extra supports there? he said.

The UNDOF mission

Currently there are 136 Irish personnel committed to this mission. The most recent UN Security Council report on UNDOF noted that the spilloverof the Syrian civil war into the missions area of operation had pushedpeacekeepers from the Bravo [Syrian] side into the Alpha [Israeli] side. It is unlikely there will be a full return to the Syrian side.

The mission is subject to the disengagement agreement and any changes require consent by both Israel and Syria. Some of the options considered in the report include urging these two governments to allow the use of new technologies for observation and enhancedequipment for the troops protection capabilities.

Changes such as these are unlikely to receive support, at least from the Israeli side as its government has been critical of UN peacekeeping missions. Just recentlyIsraels deputy chief of staff, Major General Aviv Kochavi, contradicted the Irish commander of the UN force in southern Lebanon, Major General Michael Beary, when they were giving a tour of the border toUS Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.

The Times of Israel reports Beary told Haley the situation was stable, but was interrupted by Kochavi, who said the mission was not doing its job properly. TheJournal.ie asked the Department of Foreign Affairs whether Minister Simon Coveney raised this interaction in his recent controversial meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahi the department did not respond.

Source: Irish Defence Forces via Flickr

Snodaigh pointed out that the restrictions on the mission in Syria have made the job of peacekeeping in the area practically impossible at times.

Irish troops operating there have been welcomed throughout the world for the way they operate, not taking sides and being quite good at diffusing situations. In the Golan Heights, in the main, they have been welcomed. But there have been situations where they have had to keep their heads down, he said.

The mandate isnt to interfere, but the whole place is in flux can they fulfil their mandate now? There is no point in being there if they are just keeping their heads down.

Speaking in the Dil this week, Fianna Fil TD Lisa Chambers also raisedrecent tensions in the Golan Heights, describing the fighting close to the Irish camp as unprecedented.

The fighting was so close to the Irish camp and so intense that many Irish military personnel are concerned at what they perceive as a lack of response from the government, she said.

I am concerned that there has been no publicity about this and no official response. I am concerned that there has not been more briefing on it and that it was not acknowledged, given the scale of the offensive action that took place, about which a number of troops are concerned.

Why has the Minister not briefed the Dil about this before now and why did he wait to be prompted? What measures are the Department of Defence and the Department of Foreign Affairs taking, in light of what we have learned?

In response to a query from TheJournal.ie, Minister of State at the Department of Defence Paul Kehoe said the governments ability to protect the health and safety of our personnelis his paramount concern when considering any mission.

It is the policy and practice to ensure that Defence Forces personnel serving overseas are appropriately trained and equipped with the most modern and effective equipment to carry out their mission, he said.

In this regard, they complete comprehensive, mission focused training in advance of any deployment to ensure that they are suitably prepared for the challenges that they face. This also includes providing the required force protection assets specific to the mission.

Ongoing threat assessments are carried out in mission areas and both personal equipment and force assets are continually reviewed, to ensure that Defence Forces personnel are appropriately equipped to fulfil their roles.

The minister noted, however, that no mission is without danger and said he is assured by the Chief of Staff that appropriate security measures are in place for Irishpersonnel serving with UNDOF.

Kehoe did not address questions about the Irish governments level of interaction with the US, Russia and Jordan in relation to the safe zone. His department did note that the impact on the UNDOF mission of the conflicts between state and non-state actors inSyriais being closely monitored.

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July 16, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Firefighters battle blazes in Safed and Golan Heights | The Times of … – The Times of Israel

Police on Sunday evacuated dozens of residents from a number of residential buildings in the northern city of Safed after a nearby brush fire spread to homes in the northern Israeli city, rescue workers said.

The decision to evacuate people from their homes was made over fears that residents would be trapped inside the burning homes. At least 15 houses were destroyed.

Additional firefighting crews and firefighting planes were called into battle the fire, which was later said to be brought under control.

In addition to the apartment buildings, a number of cars parked nearby also caught fire.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service said it evacuated two people in mild condition as a result of the blaze. Hebrew media reports later said that seven people in total were evacuated after suffering from smoke inhalation.

Also Sunday, IDF soldiers and UN peacekeeping forces were evacuated from their posts in the Golan Heights after a large brush fire breaks out in the area.

Firefighters were working to put out the fire raging near the kibbutz Metzar.

There were no reports of injuries or damage.

Earlier Sunday, a fire broke out near the West Bank settlement of Beit El, leading rescue crews to evacuate three people in moderate condition from smoke inhalation, according to Hebrew media reports.

Residents of some 15 homes were also reported to have been ordered to leave their homes, but were later allowed to return, after the fire had been largely brought under control.

Emergency crews were investigating the cause of the blaze.

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The Golan Heights – Israel Tourist Information Official Site

The Golan Heights, Israels mountainous northern region, is one of the most beautiful and most traveled parts of the country. There are wonderful scenic treasures alongside lovely nature reserves, historic and archeological sites and attractions for the whole family. Some people call this area the Israeli Texas, because of its size, while others see it as a land of plentiful water sources. The beauty of the Golan is so captivating that some visitors return here again and again to enjoy the sights.

The view from the Golan Heights becomes more and more magnificent as you gradually climb from the plains, at 300 meters above sea level in the south to 1,200 meters in the north. The eastern edge of this region is dotted with a chain of volcanic hills, while the south and west border on basalt cliffs that descend to the Jordan Valley Rift, Lake Kineret and the Yarmuk River.

Scattered throughout the Golan Heights are a wide variety of sites that offer a broad spectrum of activities for tourists and hikers throughout the year. In the winter both amateur and professional skiers flock to the top of the snow-covered Hermon Mountain to enjoy its excellent ski conditions, the snow that piles up on the ground and the pure white landscape. In the summer hikers can enjoy a swim in the many streams, in spring the plains are carpeted with multi-colored flowers and in autumn the pleasant weather attracts hikers to the many wooded trails.

The Golan Heights also offers tourists an authentic cowboy experience at a ranch with horses and cattle. Visitors can go out to the orchards and pick ripe cherries, raspberries and other seasonal fruits.

Bird lovers can watch the eagles nesting in Gamla and on the cliffs of the nature reserve, and see the remains of a Chalcolithic Era settlement (from about 5,500 years ago). There are also burial grounds from 4,000 years ago, a 2,000-year-old Jewish city a monastery with a Byzantine church (from 1,500 years ago) and much more.

The summit of Mount Bental offers a panoramic view of the whole area, while the Sa’ar, Zavitan and Meshushim streams gurgle and froth from the waterfalls along their routes through breathtaking canyons.

Odem Forest, in the northern Golan, is the home of a deer reserve, with many different species. Near here you can also see Rujum al-Hiri (Circle of Ghosts), a Megalithic structure about 5,000 years old that researchers believe was used for ritual purposes, burial or as an astronomy observatory.

The Golan Heights is the only part of Israel with basalt stones, originating from long ago volcanic eruptions. Here in the mountains the nights are chilly all year long.

Visitors to the Golan Heights can sleep in any of the hundreds of rural guest houses, tour the archeological sites (Banias, Gamla, Beit Tsida, ancient Katsrin) and the unique nature reserves, enjoy the boutique wineries, taste the delicacies at the wide variety of restaurants, experience Druze hospitality in one of the Druze villages in the northern Golan and much more.

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That time Philippine troops blew off illegal UN orders at the Golan … – SOFREP (press release) (subscription)

By Jack Murphy 07.13.2017#Expert Analysis Email Share Tweet

General Cirilito Lito Sobejana joined the Golan Heights United Nations mission in 2013 as the Chief of Staff of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) responsible for ensuring that Syria and Israel do not violate the Agreement on Disengagement that they signed at the end of the 1973 Yom-Kippur War. For Sobejana and his Philippine peacekeepers, it was far from their first rodeo. The mission had unique challenges, but also some commonalities with the situation they faced back home. My first impression there was for us to act as peacekeepers and maintain the truce between Syria and Israel, that was our primary task, Sobejana told SOFREP. But in doing our job the bigger challenge that we faced was the civil war in Syria. Some rebel groups were fighting against Assad and his administration.

The Golan Heights were at the center of a complicated political and military situation made yet more confusing by the onset of the Syrian Civil War. Since the end of the war in 1973, the Golan Heights had remained a bitter issue. President Assad remarked before the Civil War that it would be remembered forever if he was able to negotiate the Golan Heights back from Israel. He never did. During a 2016 conference for journalists in Damascus, Samir Baridi, a member of the Syrian intelligentsia, described the Golan Heights as, Syrian land occupied by the Zionist entity.

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Jack Murphy is an eight year Army Special Operations veteran who served as a Sniper and Team Leader in 3rd Ranger Battalion and as a Senior Weapons Sergeant on a Military Free Fall team in 5th Special Forces Group. Having left the military in 2010, he graduated from Columbia with a BA in political science. Murphy is the author of Reflexive Fire, Target Deck, Direct Action, and numerous non-fiction articles about Weapons, Tactics, Special Operations, Terrorism, and Counter-Terrorism. He has appeared in documentaries, national television, and syndicated radio.

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Lapid: We’ll never surrender the Golan Heights – Arutz Sheva

Yair Lapid visits the Golan

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Yesh Atid chairman and former Finance Minister Yair Lapid toured the Golan Heights Thursday, along with Colonel (reserve) Kobi Marom in a visit hosted by Golan Regional Council chief Eli Malka.

The three visited a lookout point on the border with Syria overlooking the city of Kuneitra, in order to see firsthand the complex reality on Israels northern border, following a series of recent stray-fire incidents in which mortars and gunfire from the Syrian civil war struck the Israeli side of the Golan.

During the visit, Lapid was told of the difficulties faced by residents in the Golan, and was given a briefing regarding the situation on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.

Regarding the recent wave of stray fire hitting Israel from Syria, Lapid insisted that Israel must respond quickly and decisively to any such incident.

Israel must respond immediately and harshly to every spill-over [from Syria], and they know that. That needs to be the policy and thats how it must remain.

The State of Israel has two strategic goals, Lapid continued. First, we need to ensure that no axis between Iran and Hezbollah be formed in any future talks with the Americans, the Russians, the Jordanians, or even the Syrian military. We wont accept and we wont agree to the idea of an Iranian-Hezbollah axis that reaches Israels border.

The former Finance Minister added that the time had come for Israels sovereignty over the Golan to be recognized, given the chaos in Syria.

The Israeli government has an opportunity here, and [the government] needs to strive to get to a situation where the entire world recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. There is no one to return the Golan to, and we will never give away the Golan, and the world doesnt want us to give back the Golan. The time has come for them to recognize our sovereignty.

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Lapid: We’ll never surrender the Golan Heights – Arutz Sheva

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July 13, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

A Syrian Artist From the Israeli-Occupied Golan Heights Explores Identity and Humanity in His Work – Global Voices Online

Artist Akram Al-Halabi in his studio apartment in Vienna. May 5, 2017. Photo by AJ Naddaff/SyriaUntold.

This story was originally writtenfor Syria UntoldbyAJ Naddaf, an Arab studies and political science student, French teacher, and research assistant for the Arab Studies chair at Davidson College.It is republished here as part of a partnership agreement.

Akram al Halabi is an artist from the mountainous plateau ofMajdal Shams, the largest of the four remaining Druze-Syrian communities on the Israeli-occupied part of the Syrian Golan Heights. Despite coming from a contentious region, Al-Halabi does not let politics drive his art work. Rather, he utilizes art as a medium to express his search for harmony between nature and humanity.

Born into a family of several artists, Al-Halabis art career began as a child when he would paint and draw under the tutelage of an art teacher from his village. From 1997 until 2000, he studied drawing and painting at Bayt Al-Fann. Then he studied at the Faculty of Fine Art at Damascus University (2000-2005). In 2003, he participated in the summer academy ofDarat al Funun, supervised by ProfessorMarwan Kassab Bashiin Amman, Jordan.

While in school, however, his eyes were set on exhibiting and continuing his art elsewhere. The incessant political pressure of his identity in Israel motivated long hours dedicated to mastering the meticulous techniques of perspective, light and shape behind his award-winning art. His goal was simple: to createart in a place where he wouldn’t have to move from checkpoint to checkpoint.

Upon completing his studies at the Faculty of Fine Art, he became the first from the Golan Heights to win a scholarship to continue his studies in Berlin. Buthe was denied travel by the Syrian government simply because of his uncontrollable statelessness. AfterIsrael officially annexed the Golan Heights in 1981, the year Al-Halabi was born, it began regarding Syrians of the Golan as residents of Israel but not citizens. Al-Halabi had been allowed to study in Damascus even though he was living in Israeli-occupied Golan because of a program supervised by the UN and made possible through an agreement between Syria and Israel.

Snowflakes Installation, Document, 784 Invoice Papers. Photo courtesy of Akram Al-Halabi; all rights reserved to the author.

Despite the hassle, Al Halabi persevered. In 2007, two years after he graduated, he won another scholarship for his art through theOne World Scholarship of the [Vienna-based] Afro-Asian-Institute,which supports 10-15 students each year from Africa, Asia and Latin America who have a developmental focus in their studies. He finally came to attend the Academy of Fine Arts of Vienna, and finished his studies with distinction in 2012 with the class of ProfessorErwin Bohatsch.

In addition to his academic study of art, Al-Halabi has participated in sundry exhibitions across Europe. His work has also been collected by many private collectors in the European Union and the Middle East, as well as in The British Museum, London, and theKupferstichkabinettcollectionin Vienna.

Grappling with his own identity in an Austrian context, while at the Academy of Fine Arts of Vienna, he was inspired to travel from 2009to 2012 all over Europe, to Palestineand Israel, and back to his village. Duringthis journey, Al-Halabi asked people, whom he met randomly, to define themselves at the moment of their meeting and to write this definition on individual papers used for invoicing. He called the project Snowflakes, later adding small geometric forms using pliers to create lines in the shape of fingerprints and snowflakes.

Some of the people out of the 800 or so who have participated in Akram al-Halabis Snowflakes project from 2009 to 2012. Photo courtesy of Akram al-Halabi; all rights reserved to the author.

With the dye of these carbon papers turning blue upon pressure, each participant received a copy of their work. There are so many people who actually want and need to say something to you, especially old people in parks, he told SyriaUntold. I was motivated because Im born undefined and Im still undefined but I came to understand myself more through understanding others. If you go to the streets and begin talking to strangers, you will be amazed at how some people become your friends and can understand you.

He further commented on the danger of being stuck in certain boxes. For example, many Israelis and Palestinians were unwilling to participate in the project simply because Al-Halabi did not align with their religious ideals.

The open-minded, inquisitive and amicable spirit from which the project was conducted is what best describes Al-Halabis personality. In 2010, while traveling back to his village every summer to see his family, he created a performance project called Love Comes First, in which 200 people from the Golan Heights wrote with their bodies the statement: Love Comes First (in Arabic,Al-Mahabbah Awwalan).

Akram al-Halabis Love Comes First on the football field of Majdal Shams village, occupied Golan Heights, 2010 Photo by Nihad Awaidat andDiala Madah courtesy of Akram al-Halabi; all rights reserved to the authors.

The next year, as the Syrian uprising erupted, Al-Halabi watched with suspense from his television screen. Because I had lived in Damascus and some of the areas most affected by the revolution, I had to produce art. I do not have the power to do anything though. I can just look and show what is happening through another lens, he told SyriaUntold.

Taking gruesome images from his computer that were widely blasted in the media, Al-Halabi conceived the project Cheek, erasing the images by adding English words and Arabic letters around them, sometimes sketching the images most basic outline. I wanted to make a third level of perception, making connections between word and image to the viewer, explained Al-Halabi. His reprints listtraits that appear in the image by their names, simply to remind the audience that they exist: Ear, Eye, Brow, Window, Blood, Nose, Child, Neck, Throat, Chin, Shoulder, Heart, Mother, Fingers, Cheek

Never Forget portrays the Houla Massacre in which 34 women and 49 children were slaughtered by Syrian regime forces. It is part of the Cheek project. Photo courtesy of Akram Al-Halabi; all rights reserved to the author.

The project represents a story of poetry in space, removing the horror from viral blood-stained pictures. It had been conceived between 2011 and 2013, during the first couple years of Syrias revolution, before the conflict became an all-out proxy war. For many nights he could not sleep until Cheek was completed, and only then was he able to move on with other projects.

Akrab Massacre/Cheek 1, Visual writing, Digital work 2013. Photo courtesy of Akram Al-Halabi; all rights reserved to the author.

The wide range of mediums and themes in Al-Halabis work are akin to his conception of identity, as something malleable and evolving overtime, like a snowflake. Above all, Al-Halabi believes that geographical identities are meaningless markers for defining not only people, but himself. Whats most important for him is to experience life not as boring or straightforward, but to accept its complexities, and to find harmony in his days. Creating art is one way for him to express this.

Yet the power of engaging in deep conversations, reading good literature, swimming, observing natures beauty (like his fascination with dragonflies), and acting in theatre performances are all expressions that give his life meaning, and make him feel defined. Dont forget to enjoy your day, Al-Halabi told SyriaUntold. Thats more important than this article anyway.

Dragonfly, B4, oil on canvas. 2017 Photo courtesy of Akram Al-Halabi; all rights reserved to the author.

In November, Al-Halabi will attend the opening of a group exhibition featuring his works in Japan: Diaspora Nowat the Museum of Fine Arts in Gifu (11/11/2017 8/1/2018). See more of his polyvalent artwork in his portfoliohere.

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A Syrian Artist From the Israeli-Occupied Golan Heights Explores Identity and Humanity in His Work – Global Voices Online

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July 12, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

The Syrian Ceasefire in the Golan Is Good for Israel LobeLog – LobeLog

byShemuel Meir The dramatic announcement by presidents Trump and Putin ofa ceasefire in south-west Syriaearlier this month was greeted in Israel with skepticism. Official Israel wasnt impressed with the agreement reached by the two superpowers to establish and enforce a buffer zone on Israels northern border in the Golan Heights, free of all military activity. In the first Israeli cabinet meeting held after the ceasefire agreement was announced, Prime Minister BenjaminNetanyahu spoke in stipulations: Israel will welcome a genuine ceasefire in Syria but this ceasefire must not enable the establishment of a military presence by Iran and its proxies in Syria in general and in southern Syria in particular. One week later, at a press briefing in Paris, Netanyahu called the ceasefire a bad deal and declared Israels opposition to it. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman was even more scathing. Israel is not obligated by the ceasefire deal and reserves absolute freedom of action to respond to developments on the ground as it sees fit,according to Liberman, irrespective of the understandings reached between Trump and Putin. Most of the analysis in Israel fell in line with Netanyahu and Liberman, minimizing the agreement and ignoring any strategic value it might have for Israel. That is a mistake. There is more than meets the eye in this agreement. Even if the ceasefire agreement doesnt fully address the entire enforcement arrangement, it does indicate American involvement in Syria in the era that follows the routing of ISIS and the conquering of itsde factocapital, Raqqa. The agreement, therefore, should alleviate Israels concerns about the vacuum that would be created if the Americans left, which would negatively affect the situation in the Golan Heights. The ceasefire agreement also came at a critical point in time for Israel. The calm fostered on the ground helped prevent Israel being dragged into the war by miscalculation or unplanned military escalation. Several days in a row in June2017, we saw dailyreportsof the IDF attacking Syrian military targets in response to artillery or mortar fire into Israeli-controlled territory. The routine of errant shells falling in Israeli territory now included an automatic IDF response, including official statements along the lines of, Israel wont accept any violations of its sovereignty. The prime ministerpromisedstrong responses, and thats what happened. Despite repeated declarations that Israel has no interest in being dragged into the war in Syria, a doctrine of maintaining operational freedom and automatic military responses to errant fire was ultimately likely to bring about unplanned results. There is no deterrence in this scenario, because it is unclear how one is supposed to deter a party who isnt trying to strike you in the first place. Contrarily, massive responses that kill Syrian army officers and soldiers are likely to hasten an undesirable escalation. Under circumstances of existing military friction, it is always hard to know when and how two parties will cross the threshold of low-intensity conflict into something more serious. At the same time, another risky development was taking place: a demand from the field to increase the humanitarian and medical aid that Israel provides Islamist rebel groups, and introduce more military elements. For example, creating an Israeli-enforced security zone like the one it held in southern Lebanon, gradually and unintentionally getting sucked into a military confrontation with the Syrian army. And thats where Iran comes into the picture. Netanyahu hasdeclared red linesin Syria more than once, at least one of which is geographic: preventing Iran gaining a foothold in the Golan Heights. Publicly declared red lines and using military force against Assads army in the Golan were meant to draw a line in the sand, and sending a message to the other side, including Iran, not to cross it. But are automatic military responses that could lead to unplanned and undesirable results really necessary? Sometimes less is more. More so, Netanyahus messages and red lines have already been heard and his geographic red lines achieved the desired result. Iran got Israels deterrent message loud and clear when the latter killed a Revolutionary Guard general who was touring the Golan in January 2015 it doesnt come near anymore. Israel and Iran have not been involved in any confrontation in the Golan since, and there is no Iranian military presence there. A military analysis of the situation shows that Iran was not enthusiastic about a direct confrontation with Israel. The deterrence is working, and the red lines are holding. That, and more. In the press briefing in Paris in whichNetanyahu declaredhis rejection of the ceasefire deal, he also basically admitted that there is no Iranian military presence in the Golan Heights. The Israeli prime minister revealed that the agreement forbids any Iranian military presence within 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the border of the Israeli-controlled half of the Golan Heights, thereby acknowledging for the first time that Iranian forces are closer to Damascus than they are to Israel. We can assume that Iran through the Russians gave its tacit approval to the diplomatic arrangement that bars its troops from the Golan Heights. That is an important contribution to the stability of that area and a strategic accomplishment for Israel. A diplomatic agreement that is in line and affirms the military situation. Netanyahus maximalist argument against the Russian-American-brokered ceasefire deal in the Golan Heights is that it perpetuates an Iranian military presence in the rest of Syria. But his argument presumes if and isnt reflective of anything on the ground. Along those lines, we continue to hear a term that has gained popularity as if it were some unquestioned strategic accord: the Shiite Crescent, a supposed territorially contiguous corridor of Iranian military control from Tehran all the way to the Mediterranean Sea (around 1,400 km, or 870 miles). Perhaps it is a nice concept on paper, but its very difficult to see how one realizes a crescent of Shiite control and how one creates an Iranian corridor on the ground in such a broad area and chaotic area so vulnerable to terrorist groups. And all that using the limited power of the Iranian army and air force? The Shiite Crescent is a nice metaphor but reality on the ground is entirely different. Dont forget that Iran was forced to bring home a large part of its Revolutionary Guard forces that it sent in the earlier stages of the Syrian War and replaced them with mercenary militias from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. But back to diplomacy. Wars end in conferences or in diplomatic formulations and that is the direction one can see for Syria from the Russian-American agreement. The diplomatic arrangement inside sovereign Syrian territory through the creation buffer zones (de-escalation zones in diplomatic terms) by the two major powers is preferable for Israel over relying solely on military forces and a doctrine of setting red lines. The rules of the game of sending signals and deterrence are inherently elusive and likely to collapse unexpectedly. It is preferable, therefore, to incorporate the rules of the diplomatic game and diplomatic arrangements, which are far more durable. Furthermore, in the event of an escalation into warfare on the Syrian side of the Golan, Israel would be hard-pressed to find any international legitimacy for exercising a large-scale military option like a preventivestrike in sovereign Syrian territory from the territory it controls on the other side of the Golan. Lets not forget that the world rejected Israels annexation of the Israeli side of the Golan, which it considers null and void according toUN Security Council Resolution 497. Every single plan that the international community has formulated to end the civil war in Syria includes some variation of an opening clause declaring the need to preserve Syrias territorial integrity, which is one of the only points upon which both the Assad regime and the rebels both agree. Israels security interests first and foremost focus on those areas abutting its borders. Therefore, it is better for Israel to join the American-Russian process of resolving the war in Syria. Even if such arrangements mean the return of the Syrian side of the Golan Heights to the control of the Damascus regime. In such a scenario, the American-Russian agreement is likely to rehabilitate and strengthen the UN troops in the Golan Heights (UNDOF) which has been there since the ceasefire that ended the Yom Kippur War in 1974. The UN observer force, whose mandate is to supervise demilitarized zones in the Golan Heights, could gain new momentum this time with regards to the indirect agreement with Iran. A renewed (and reinforced) UNDOF mission is the answer to the question that so bothers Israel: who will monitor the de-escalation zone along its border onthe Golan Heights. A diplomatic process jointly led by the Americans and Russians, and the tacit and indirect agreement with Iran to re-demilitarize the Golan Heights, could make a the best contribution to creating a stability we dont have today. From Israels perspective, that means distancing Iranian military forces from the Golan Heights and minimizing the risk of an unplanned and undesired military escalation. Shemuel Meir is a former IDF analyst and associate researcher at the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University. Today he is an independent researcher on nuclear and strategic issues and author of theStrategic Discourse blog, which appears inHaaretz. Read this post in Hebrewhere. Reprinted, with permission, from +972 Magazine. Photo: Israeli Defense Forces on a drill in the Golan Heights (Wikimedia Commons).

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July 21, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Israeli Aid Gives an Unexpected ‘Glimmer of Hope’ for Syrians – New York Times

The aid creates a positive awareness of Israel on the Syrian side, said Col. Barak Hiram, the commanding officer of Israels 474 Golan Brigade, adding that it could lay the first seeds of some form of future agreement. Most of the supplies are donated by Israeli and foreign nongovernmental organizations, while the Israeli government has footed the bill for medical treatment. According to the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees, a New York-based network of organizations involved in the aid effort, Israel has also become an efficient, if unlikely, staging area for Syrian aid groups operating abroad that, facilitated by the Israeli military, are now shipping goods into Syria through Israeli ports. The extent of the project became known days after the United States and Russia announced a cease-fire agreement for southern Syria, territory that includes the areas covered by Operation Good Neighbor, and after President Trumps cancellation of the clandestine and failing American program to provide arms and supplies to Syrian rebel groups. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking to Israeli reporters during a trip to Europe this week, said he was utterly opposed to the cease-fire deal because of concerns that it would allow Shiite militias backed by Israels archenemy, Iran, to dig in close to its borders. Netanyahu is upset because the Jordanians were told that the Shiite militias would be kept 40 kilometers from their border, said Ehud Yaari, an Israeli analyst and fellow of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Israel did not get the same promise. We were left out. But discussions about the cease-fire are continuing, Mr. Yaari said, and the Israeli protests seemed aimed at trying to shape the outcome. Israel says it maintains a policy of nonintervention in Syrias civil war, which began in 2011. But it has frequently bombed convoys and stores of weapons destined for Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia fighting in Syria on behalf of Mr. Assad. On other occasions, it has retaliated against Syrian government positions for the spillover of errant fire into the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. According to Israeli military officials, extremist groups associated with the Islamic State control about 20 percent of the territory along the Syrian side of the Golan boundary, concentrated in the south. A mlange of other Sunni rebel groups, including affiliates of Al Qaeda, control an additional 65 percent, while the Syrian Army, Shiite allies and Druze loyalists control about 15 percent in the north. Israeli analysts say it can be assumed that cash, ammunition and intelligence assets also pass through the fence on the Golan Heights, the strategic plateau that Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 war. A recent Wall Street Journal article quoted local Syrian rebels saying that they regularly received cash for salaries and weapons as part of the Israeli effort to push hostile forces from the border villages. Israel has not explicitly denied the report, and the military would not comment. But Israeli military officials insist that Operation Good Neighbor deals purely with humanitarian aid and that they would not jeopardize the emerging climate of cooperation or taint it by mixing in weapons transfers and intelligence gathering. Since Israel and Syria are technically in a state of war and have no diplomatic relations, Israel has not taken in masses of Syrian refugees as other countries have done. Even a government proposal to bring in 100 orphaned Syrian children was dropped. Still, many Israelis have expressed distress over standing by as the humanitarian disaster has unfolded in Syria, which is what motivated the military to undertake the operation, officials said. Syrians wounded in the fighting first arrived at the Israeli border fence early in 2013, desperate for help. We faced a dilemma, said Dr. Noam Fink, the chief medical officer of the Israeli militarys northern command. The decision was made by our commanders and our government to allow them to enter the country and to give them full medical treatment. Since then, with medical facilities in war-ravaged towns and villages barely functioning, Israel has treated about 4,000 war-wounded or sick Syrians. Israel says it is now getting aid to an area inhabited by about 200,000 Syrians, including around 400 displaced families living in tent encampments along the international boundary, and is helping equip new clinics in the area. So far the strategy is working, said Amos Harel, the military affairs analyst for the newspaper Haaretz, noting the relative quiet along the Israeli-Syrian cease-fire line. It is an intelligent policy. It is not only altruistic. Georgette Bennett, who founded the Multifaith Alliance in 2013, said her network had the ability to reach deeper on the Syrian side, covering an area of 1.5 million Syrians. The cooperation between Israelis and Syrians is a great glimmer of hope coming out of this tragedy, said Ms. Bennett, a Hungarian-born former refugee and the daughter of Holocaust survivors. The alliances director of humanitarian relief and regional relations, Shadi Martini, is a Syrian who said he managed a hospital in Aleppo, a city that has been an epicenter of the war, before fleeing the country in 2012. When he first heard about the Israelis aid, he said: It was a very big shock to me. Syrians were brought up to fear Israelis as the devil who wants to kill us and take our land. Speaking by telephone from Michigan, where he now lives, Mr. Martini said he had since visited Israel five times to push for, and coordinate, the effort with the Israeli military. It has struck a chord with a lot of Syrians, he said. This is supposed to be our enemy. While some Syrians still have reservations about receiving aid from Israel, he added: It is not the monster they told us it was. People have started looking at it differently. An earlier version of this article mischaracterized Georgette Bennett, who founded the Multifaith Alliance. She is the daughter of Holocaust survivors, not a Holocaust survivor herself.

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July 20, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Israel Escalates Threats Against Iran – Haaretz

Ex-national security adviser warns that Israel must prevent Iranian infrastructure in Syria at any cost. The explicit threat to Iran and Hezbollah is not an official declaration, but foreign governments will find it hard to ignore Israel must prevent Iran from building bases in Syria at any cost, a former national security adviser who retains influence in the Prime Ministers Office said this week. Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror was speaking at a briefing for foreign correspondents organized by the nonprofit group the Israel Project. The implications of the Iranians building bases in Syria, Amidror said, is that it creates launching-pad bases in Syria to Hezbollah and the Iranians. And Israel should prevent it whatever will be the price. If that will not be taken into account by the those who are making those arrangements the Americans, the Russians and others that might lead the IDF to intervene and destroy every attempt to build infrastructure in Syria, he continued, referring to the Israel Defense Forces. We will not let the Iranians and Hezbollah be the forces which will win from the long and very brutal war in Syria and move the focus into Israel. > > Syria analyses: Israel stuck between Putin and Tump Israel will have to live with Russian dominance on its border > > We’ve got more newsletters we think you’ll find interesting. Please try again later. This email address has already registered for this newsletter. Asked whether Israel would have the freedom to operate in Syria in such a manner, Amidror replied, I dont see who will stop it. I mean, if that is in the interest of Israel, we should strive to be sure that our interests will be kept. Though Amidror currently holds no official government position, he still has ties to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and retains a degree of influence on certain issues. Thus it is reasonable to assume that foreign governments that follow events in the region would note such remarks. Its also convenient for Netanyahu to have such statements come from Amidror. That way, the explicit threat against Iran and Hezbollah isnt perceived as being an official Israeli one, yet at the same time its hard to ignore. Rapping the cease-fire deal Amidrors remarks came one day after Netanyahu publicly criticized a cease-fire agreement brokered by Russia and the United States in southern Syria. In a briefing for Israeli journalists during Netanyahus visit to Paris, he and people identified only as senior officials voiced two reservations about the deal. First, Israel believes it essentially acquiesces to Irans presence in Syria, which already includes bases for ground forces, thousands of fighters from various Shiite militias and advanced plans for setting up air and naval bases in the country. Second, Israel is skeptical of the agreements stated commitment to keep Iranian and Hezbollah forces about 20 miles from its border in the Golan Heights. Israel doesnt believe that Russian troops, which are responsible for enforcing the agreement, will actually prevent Iranian forces from approaching the border. Over the past few days, Russian Military Police units have been spotted near the town of Daraa in southern Syria, apparently to help enforce the cease-fire. But Israel is still trying to determine exactly how Russia plans to supervise activities by the Assad regime and its allies, including Iran and Hezbollah. In response to Netanyahus remarks, Russia hastened to issue a soothing statement. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the cease-fire deal in southern Syria had taken Israels security needs into account, and that the agreement would be implemented in coordination with Israel. Meanwhile, Israel has resumed its campaign of diplomatic warnings on a neighboring front, the Lebanese border. On Tuesday, the IDF released new video footage of intelligence operations by Hezbollah along the border, in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War. This footage comes almost a month after Israel complained to the United Nations about similar Hezbollah activities along the border. Israel also revealed last month that Iran had set up weapons plants for Hezbollah in Lebanon. The explanation for Israels moves on the Lebanese front is obvious. The Security Council will soon hold its periodic debate on the implementation of Resolution 1701 and the extension of UNIFILs mandate in southern Lebanon. Israel thus has an interest in exposing Hezbollahs violations, as well as what it describes as UNIFILs apathy to or deliberate disregard of these violations. This would push the UN peacekeeping force to be more aggressive in its dealings with Hezbollah and also lay the public-diplomacy groundwork should a military conflict erupt in Lebanon. Clashing with Trump But developments along the Syrian border have an even greater potential for drama. Though its doubtful Israel will attack Iranian bases in Syria the next morning, as Amidrors words might seem to imply, theres clearly a point of friction over which Netanyahu, for the first time, has been willing to publicly clash with the Trump administration. Israels suspicions about Washingtons conduct in the Syrian theater relate to several issues: Russian-American coordination, which Israel sees as being dictated mainly by Moscow; the emerging American plan to reduce its military presence in the region once the Islamic State is defeated in its Syrian capital of Raqqa; and Trumps apparent acceptance of Irans growing role in Syria. The administrations announcement, two years after the nuclear deal was signed with Iran, that Tehran is honoring its commitment to freeze its nuclear program also apparently made Netanyahu uncomfortable. Until then, President Donald Trump had sounded much more forceful and suspicious toward Iran than some of his top officials. Washington hastened to give itself a bit of cover for that relatively positive statement toward Tehran by announcing new sanctions against 18 Iranian individuals and organizations in response to Irans support for terror in the Middle East, its aid to the Assad regime in Syria and its ballistic-missile development. These conflicting messages from Washington, coupled with the Israeli warnings, reveal that both the Syrian and Iranian situations are fluid. That apparently is why Israel is applying pressure in the hope of spurring the Americans to improve the agreement they reached in a way that would make it better for Israel. Want to enjoy ‘Zen’ reading – with no ads and just the article? Subscribe today

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July 20, 2017   Posted in: Golan Heights  Comments Closed

Concern for Irish troops in Syria as Russia and US plan safe zone – thejournal.ie

Fighting in recent weeks came so close to the UNDOF camp that Irish troops were forced to take cover inside. Fighting in recent weeks came so close to the UNDOF camp that Irish troops were forced to take cover inside. CONCERN HAS BEEN expressed about Irish troops based in Syria after recent fighting closeto their camp and developments that have seen the United States and Russia negotiating the terms of a safe zone in the area. In the first week of this month, clashes between rebel groups and government forces in Syria came so close to the Irish camp that troops had to take cover as gun fire landed inside the base. A ceasefire in southern Syria was brokered by the US, Russia and Jordan on Friday and it has been reported that they reached an agreement on the creation of a safe zone, which would allow refugees who fled Jordan to return. It would also facilitate the access ofhumanitarian aid. However, it is possible armed Syrian rebels will police this new safe zone, with the backing of American and Russian troops, which would significantly change the dynamics of the situation and could lead to further tensions. The mandate of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) is to maintain the ceasefire between the Israeli and Syrian forces, which means keeping weapons out of the Golan Heights. The terms of this new safe zone could impact on this mission. Now Irish soldiers in Syria and a number of politicians at home are asking what the government here is doing to involve itself in ongoing negotiations that will ultimately impact on members of its Defence Forces and the job they have been sent there to do. There are concerns about the involvement of Russian and US forces. Source: Irish Defence Forces via Flickr Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Sinn Fin TD Aengus Snodaigh said the UNDOF mandate now urgently needs to be reviewed. When the circumstances on the ground change in such a dramatic fashion and the Russians are involved, you have to look again at whether its appropriate for us to be there in the firstplace. We need to look at whether we need to consider withdrawing, do we need extra supports there? he said. The UNDOF mission Currently there are 136 Irish personnel committed to this mission. The most recent UN Security Council report on UNDOF noted that the spilloverof the Syrian civil war into the missions area of operation had pushedpeacekeepers from the Bravo [Syrian] side into the Alpha [Israeli] side. It is unlikely there will be a full return to the Syrian side. The mission is subject to the disengagement agreement and any changes require consent by both Israel and Syria. Some of the options considered in the report include urging these two governments to allow the use of new technologies for observation and enhancedequipment for the troops protection capabilities. Changes such as these are unlikely to receive support, at least from the Israeli side as its government has been critical of UN peacekeeping missions. Just recentlyIsraels deputy chief of staff, Major General Aviv Kochavi, contradicted the Irish commander of the UN force in southern Lebanon, Major General Michael Beary, when they were giving a tour of the border toUS Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. The Times of Israel reports Beary told Haley the situation was stable, but was interrupted by Kochavi, who said the mission was not doing its job properly. TheJournal.ie asked the Department of Foreign Affairs whether Minister Simon Coveney raised this interaction in his recent controversial meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahi the department did not respond. Source: Irish Defence Forces via Flickr Snodaigh pointed out that the restrictions on the mission in Syria have made the job of peacekeeping in the area practically impossible at times. Irish troops operating there have been welcomed throughout the world for the way they operate, not taking sides and being quite good at diffusing situations. In the Golan Heights, in the main, they have been welcomed. But there have been situations where they have had to keep their heads down, he said. The mandate isnt to interfere, but the whole place is in flux can they fulfil their mandate now? There is no point in being there if they are just keeping their heads down. Speaking in the Dil this week, Fianna Fil TD Lisa Chambers also raisedrecent tensions in the Golan Heights, describing the fighting close to the Irish camp as unprecedented. The fighting was so close to the Irish camp and so intense that many Irish military personnel are concerned at what they perceive as a lack of response from the government, she said. I am concerned that there has been no publicity about this and no official response. I am concerned that there has not been more briefing on it and that it was not acknowledged, given the scale of the offensive action that took place, about which a number of troops are concerned. Why has the Minister not briefed the Dil about this before now and why did he wait to be prompted? What measures are the Department of Defence and the Department of Foreign Affairs taking, in light of what we have learned? In response to a query from TheJournal.ie, Minister of State at the Department of Defence Paul Kehoe said the governments ability to protect the health and safety of our personnelis his paramount concern when considering any mission. It is the policy and practice to ensure that Defence Forces personnel serving overseas are appropriately trained and equipped with the most modern and effective equipment to carry out their mission, he said. In this regard, they complete comprehensive, mission focused training in advance of any deployment to ensure that they are suitably prepared for the challenges that they face. This also includes providing the required force protection assets specific to the mission. Ongoing threat assessments are carried out in mission areas and both personal equipment and force assets are continually reviewed, to ensure that Defence Forces personnel are appropriately equipped to fulfil their roles. The minister noted, however, that no mission is without danger and said he is assured by the Chief of Staff that appropriate security measures are in place for Irishpersonnel serving with UNDOF. Kehoe did not address questions about the Irish governments level of interaction with the US, Russia and Jordan in relation to the safe zone. His department did note that the impact on the UNDOF mission of the conflicts between state and non-state actors inSyriais being closely monitored. 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Firefighters battle blazes in Safed and Golan Heights | The Times of … – The Times of Israel

Police on Sunday evacuated dozens of residents from a number of residential buildings in the northern city of Safed after a nearby brush fire spread to homes in the northern Israeli city, rescue workers said. The decision to evacuate people from their homes was made over fears that residents would be trapped inside the burning homes. At least 15 houses were destroyed. Additional firefighting crews and firefighting planes were called into battle the fire, which was later said to be brought under control. In addition to the apartment buildings, a number of cars parked nearby also caught fire. The Magen David Adom ambulance service said it evacuated two people in mild condition as a result of the blaze. Hebrew media reports later said that seven people in total were evacuated after suffering from smoke inhalation. Also Sunday, IDF soldiers and UN peacekeeping forces were evacuated from their posts in the Golan Heights after a large brush fire breaks out in the area. Firefighters were working to put out the fire raging near the kibbutz Metzar. There were no reports of injuries or damage. Earlier Sunday, a fire broke out near the West Bank settlement of Beit El, leading rescue crews to evacuate three people in moderate condition from smoke inhalation, according to Hebrew media reports. Residents of some 15 homes were also reported to have been ordered to leave their homes, but were later allowed to return, after the fire had been largely brought under control. Emergency crews were investigating the cause of the blaze.

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The Golan Heights – Israel Tourist Information Official Site

The Golan Heights, Israels mountainous northern region, is one of the most beautiful and most traveled parts of the country. There are wonderful scenic treasures alongside lovely nature reserves, historic and archeological sites and attractions for the whole family. Some people call this area the Israeli Texas, because of its size, while others see it as a land of plentiful water sources. The beauty of the Golan is so captivating that some visitors return here again and again to enjoy the sights. The view from the Golan Heights becomes more and more magnificent as you gradually climb from the plains, at 300 meters above sea level in the south to 1,200 meters in the north. The eastern edge of this region is dotted with a chain of volcanic hills, while the south and west border on basalt cliffs that descend to the Jordan Valley Rift, Lake Kineret and the Yarmuk River. Scattered throughout the Golan Heights are a wide variety of sites that offer a broad spectrum of activities for tourists and hikers throughout the year. In the winter both amateur and professional skiers flock to the top of the snow-covered Hermon Mountain to enjoy its excellent ski conditions, the snow that piles up on the ground and the pure white landscape. In the summer hikers can enjoy a swim in the many streams, in spring the plains are carpeted with multi-colored flowers and in autumn the pleasant weather attracts hikers to the many wooded trails. The Golan Heights also offers tourists an authentic cowboy experience at a ranch with horses and cattle. Visitors can go out to the orchards and pick ripe cherries, raspberries and other seasonal fruits. Bird lovers can watch the eagles nesting in Gamla and on the cliffs of the nature reserve, and see the remains of a Chalcolithic Era settlement (from about 5,500 years ago). There are also burial grounds from 4,000 years ago, a 2,000-year-old Jewish city a monastery with a Byzantine church (from 1,500 years ago) and much more. The summit of Mount Bental offers a panoramic view of the whole area, while the Sa’ar, Zavitan and Meshushim streams gurgle and froth from the waterfalls along their routes through breathtaking canyons. Odem Forest, in the northern Golan, is the home of a deer reserve, with many different species. Near here you can also see Rujum al-Hiri (Circle of Ghosts), a Megalithic structure about 5,000 years old that researchers believe was used for ritual purposes, burial or as an astronomy observatory. The Golan Heights is the only part of Israel with basalt stones, originating from long ago volcanic eruptions. Here in the mountains the nights are chilly all year long. Visitors to the Golan Heights can sleep in any of the hundreds of rural guest houses, tour the archeological sites (Banias, Gamla, Beit Tsida, ancient Katsrin) and the unique nature reserves, enjoy the boutique wineries, taste the delicacies at the wide variety of restaurants, experience Druze hospitality in one of the Druze villages in the northern Golan and much more.

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That time Philippine troops blew off illegal UN orders at the Golan … – SOFREP (press release) (subscription)

By Jack Murphy 07.13.2017#Expert Analysis Email Share Tweet General Cirilito Lito Sobejana joined the Golan Heights United Nations mission in 2013 as the Chief of Staff of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) responsible for ensuring that Syria and Israel do not violate the Agreement on Disengagement that they signed at the end of the 1973 Yom-Kippur War. For Sobejana and his Philippine peacekeepers, it was far from their first rodeo. The mission had unique challenges, but also some commonalities with the situation they faced back home. My first impression there was for us to act as peacekeepers and maintain the truce between Syria and Israel, that was our primary task, Sobejana told SOFREP. But in doing our job the bigger challenge that we faced was the civil war in Syria. Some rebel groups were fighting against Assad and his administration. The Golan Heights were at the center of a complicated political and military situation made yet more confusing by the onset of the Syrian Civil War. Since the end of the war in 1973, the Golan Heights had remained a bitter issue. President Assad remarked before the Civil War that it would be remembered forever if he was able to negotiate the Golan Heights back from Israel. He never did. During a 2016 conference for journalists in Damascus, Samir Baridi, a member of the Syrian intelligentsia, described the Golan Heights as, Syrian land occupied by the Zionist entity. or Log In Filed Under: Expert Analysis, Featured, Military News Tagged With: Al Nusra, Al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, armored vehicles seized, Fijian Peacekeepers, Golan Heights, Headline, hostages, illegal order, ISIS, Islamic State, kidnapping, Philippine Peacekeepers, Prisoners, Ransom, surrender order, Syria, UN peacekeepers, weapons seizure If you liked this article, tell someone about it Jack Murphy is an eight year Army Special Operations veteran who served as a Sniper and Team Leader in 3rd Ranger Battalion and as a Senior Weapons Sergeant on a Military Free Fall team in 5th Special Forces Group. Having left the military in 2010, he graduated from Columbia with a BA in political science. Murphy is the author of Reflexive Fire, Target Deck, Direct Action, and numerous non-fiction articles about Weapons, Tactics, Special Operations, Terrorism, and Counter-Terrorism. He has appeared in documentaries, national television, and syndicated radio.

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Lapid: We’ll never surrender the Golan Heights – Arutz Sheva

Yair Lapid visits the Golan PR Yesh Atid chairman and former Finance Minister Yair Lapid toured the Golan Heights Thursday, along with Colonel (reserve) Kobi Marom in a visit hosted by Golan Regional Council chief Eli Malka. The three visited a lookout point on the border with Syria overlooking the city of Kuneitra, in order to see firsthand the complex reality on Israels northern border, following a series of recent stray-fire incidents in which mortars and gunfire from the Syrian civil war struck the Israeli side of the Golan. During the visit, Lapid was told of the difficulties faced by residents in the Golan, and was given a briefing regarding the situation on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. Regarding the recent wave of stray fire hitting Israel from Syria, Lapid insisted that Israel must respond quickly and decisively to any such incident. Israel must respond immediately and harshly to every spill-over [from Syria], and they know that. That needs to be the policy and thats how it must remain. The State of Israel has two strategic goals, Lapid continued. First, we need to ensure that no axis between Iran and Hezbollah be formed in any future talks with the Americans, the Russians, the Jordanians, or even the Syrian military. We wont accept and we wont agree to the idea of an Iranian-Hezbollah axis that reaches Israels border. The former Finance Minister added that the time had come for Israels sovereignty over the Golan to be recognized, given the chaos in Syria. The Israeli government has an opportunity here, and [the government] needs to strive to get to a situation where the entire world recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. There is no one to return the Golan to, and we will never give away the Golan, and the world doesnt want us to give back the Golan. The time has come for them to recognize our sovereignty.

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A Syrian Artist From the Israeli-Occupied Golan Heights Explores Identity and Humanity in His Work – Global Voices Online

Artist Akram Al-Halabi in his studio apartment in Vienna. May 5, 2017. Photo by AJ Naddaff/SyriaUntold. This story was originally writtenfor Syria UntoldbyAJ Naddaf, an Arab studies and political science student, French teacher, and research assistant for the Arab Studies chair at Davidson College.It is republished here as part of a partnership agreement. Akram al Halabi is an artist from the mountainous plateau ofMajdal Shams, the largest of the four remaining Druze-Syrian communities on the Israeli-occupied part of the Syrian Golan Heights. Despite coming from a contentious region, Al-Halabi does not let politics drive his art work. Rather, he utilizes art as a medium to express his search for harmony between nature and humanity. Born into a family of several artists, Al-Halabis art career began as a child when he would paint and draw under the tutelage of an art teacher from his village. From 1997 until 2000, he studied drawing and painting at Bayt Al-Fann. Then he studied at the Faculty of Fine Art at Damascus University (2000-2005). In 2003, he participated in the summer academy ofDarat al Funun, supervised by ProfessorMarwan Kassab Bashiin Amman, Jordan. While in school, however, his eyes were set on exhibiting and continuing his art elsewhere. The incessant political pressure of his identity in Israel motivated long hours dedicated to mastering the meticulous techniques of perspective, light and shape behind his award-winning art. His goal was simple: to createart in a place where he wouldn’t have to move from checkpoint to checkpoint. Upon completing his studies at the Faculty of Fine Art, he became the first from the Golan Heights to win a scholarship to continue his studies in Berlin. Buthe was denied travel by the Syrian government simply because of his uncontrollable statelessness. AfterIsrael officially annexed the Golan Heights in 1981, the year Al-Halabi was born, it began regarding Syrians of the Golan as residents of Israel but not citizens. Al-Halabi had been allowed to study in Damascus even though he was living in Israeli-occupied Golan because of a program supervised by the UN and made possible through an agreement between Syria and Israel. Snowflakes Installation, Document, 784 Invoice Papers. Photo courtesy of Akram Al-Halabi; all rights reserved to the author. Despite the hassle, Al Halabi persevered. In 2007, two years after he graduated, he won another scholarship for his art through theOne World Scholarship of the [Vienna-based] Afro-Asian-Institute,which supports 10-15 students each year from Africa, Asia and Latin America who have a developmental focus in their studies. He finally came to attend the Academy of Fine Arts of Vienna, and finished his studies with distinction in 2012 with the class of ProfessorErwin Bohatsch. In addition to his academic study of art, Al-Halabi has participated in sundry exhibitions across Europe. His work has also been collected by many private collectors in the European Union and the Middle East, as well as in The British Museum, London, and theKupferstichkabinettcollectionin Vienna. Grappling with his own identity in an Austrian context, while at the Academy of Fine Arts of Vienna, he was inspired to travel from 2009to 2012 all over Europe, to Palestineand Israel, and back to his village. Duringthis journey, Al-Halabi asked people, whom he met randomly, to define themselves at the moment of their meeting and to write this definition on individual papers used for invoicing. He called the project Snowflakes, later adding small geometric forms using pliers to create lines in the shape of fingerprints and snowflakes. Some of the people out of the 800 or so who have participated in Akram al-Halabis Snowflakes project from 2009 to 2012. Photo courtesy of Akram al-Halabi; all rights reserved to the author. With the dye of these carbon papers turning blue upon pressure, each participant received a copy of their work. There are so many people who actually want and need to say something to you, especially old people in parks, he told SyriaUntold. I was motivated because Im born undefined and Im still undefined but I came to understand myself more through understanding others. If you go to the streets and begin talking to strangers, you will be amazed at how some people become your friends and can understand you. He further commented on the danger of being stuck in certain boxes. For example, many Israelis and Palestinians were unwilling to participate in the project simply because Al-Halabi did not align with their religious ideals. The open-minded, inquisitive and amicable spirit from which the project was conducted is what best describes Al-Halabis personality. In 2010, while traveling back to his village every summer to see his family, he created a performance project called Love Comes First, in which 200 people from the Golan Heights wrote with their bodies the statement: Love Comes First (in Arabic,Al-Mahabbah Awwalan). Akram al-Halabis Love Comes First on the football field of Majdal Shams village, occupied Golan Heights, 2010 Photo by Nihad Awaidat andDiala Madah courtesy of Akram al-Halabi; all rights reserved to the authors. The next year, as the Syrian uprising erupted, Al-Halabi watched with suspense from his television screen. Because I had lived in Damascus and some of the areas most affected by the revolution, I had to produce art. I do not have the power to do anything though. I can just look and show what is happening through another lens, he told SyriaUntold. Taking gruesome images from his computer that were widely blasted in the media, Al-Halabi conceived the project Cheek, erasing the images by adding English words and Arabic letters around them, sometimes sketching the images most basic outline. I wanted to make a third level of perception, making connections between word and image to the viewer, explained Al-Halabi. His reprints listtraits that appear in the image by their names, simply to remind the audience that they exist: Ear, Eye, Brow, Window, Blood, Nose, Child, Neck, Throat, Chin, Shoulder, Heart, Mother, Fingers, Cheek Never Forget portrays the Houla Massacre in which 34 women and 49 children were slaughtered by Syrian regime forces. It is part of the Cheek project. Photo courtesy of Akram Al-Halabi; all rights reserved to the author. The project represents a story of poetry in space, removing the horror from viral blood-stained pictures. It had been conceived between 2011 and 2013, during the first couple years of Syrias revolution, before the conflict became an all-out proxy war. For many nights he could not sleep until Cheek was completed, and only then was he able to move on with other projects. Akrab Massacre/Cheek 1, Visual writing, Digital work 2013. Photo courtesy of Akram Al-Halabi; all rights reserved to the author. The wide range of mediums and themes in Al-Halabis work are akin to his conception of identity, as something malleable and evolving overtime, like a snowflake. Above all, Al-Halabi believes that geographical identities are meaningless markers for defining not only people, but himself. Whats most important for him is to experience life not as boring or straightforward, but to accept its complexities, and to find harmony in his days. Creating art is one way for him to express this. Yet the power of engaging in deep conversations, reading good literature, swimming, observing natures beauty (like his fascination with dragonflies), and acting in theatre performances are all expressions that give his life meaning, and make him feel defined. Dont forget to enjoy your day, Al-Halabi told SyriaUntold. Thats more important than this article anyway. Dragonfly, B4, oil on canvas. 2017 Photo courtesy of Akram Al-Halabi; all rights reserved to the author. In November, Al-Halabi will attend the opening of a group exhibition featuring his works in Japan: Diaspora Nowat the Museum of Fine Arts in Gifu (11/11/2017 8/1/2018). See more of his polyvalent artwork in his portfoliohere.

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