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28 Dec, 2021 00:01

Syria condemns ‘unprecedented escalation’ by Israel

Damascus has pushed back against the Israeli government’s plan to expand its Golan Heights settlements
Syria condemns ‘unprecedented escalation’ by Israel

The Syrian government has sharply denounced an Israeli plan to double the population of Jewish settlers in the occupied Golan Heights – captured from Damascus in 1967 – and argued that the move is fomenting tensions.

In a statement on Monday, the Syrian Foreign Ministry rejected the latest Jewish settlement expansion plan, arguing it was a violation of international law.

“The government of the Syrian Arab Republic strongly condemns the unprecedented dangerous escalation by the Israeli occupation authorities in the occupied Syrian Golan, and their persistence in settlement practices and massive and systematic violations that amount to war crimes,” the ministry said, accusing Tel Aviv of “confiscation of land and property” and the “theft of natural resources” in the occupied region.

The Israeli government approved the $317 million settlement plan over the weekend, aiming to double the number of settlers in the Golan Heights over the next five years with investments in housing and infrastructure. Officials hope to encourage around 23,000 new residents into the area, which Israel has occupied since the Six-Day War in 1967, during which it also captured Gaza, the West Bank, and parts of the Sinai Peninsula. 

In an interview with local media on Monday, Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad insisted on his country’s right to the “entire occupied Golan,” and argued that Syrian sovereignty there was “not subject to negotiation or concession.”

“All the measures taken by ‘Israel’ – the occupying power – to change [the Golan Heights’] natural and demographic features or impose its jurisdiction over it are null and void,” the FM said, adding that Israel had no authority under international law, and citing a 1981 United Nations Security Council Resolution that called on Tel Aviv to rescind its claim to the territory.

Syria’s ruling Ba’ath Party also harshly denounced the settlement plan on Monday, saying Israel’s “quest to double the number of settlers” in the Golan was a “massive aggression against Syria” and a “blatant violation” of international law.

Tel Aviv has long insisted on its territorial claims in the region, which was recognized by the United States under President Donald Trump in 2019 – the first foreign nation to endorse the ongoing occupation. Though the Biden administration has been less vocally supportive of Israel since coming to power, the president has signaled that he will not change US policy as it relates to the Golan Heights, and will continue to formally recognize the Israeli claim.