Mount Hermon is seen in the background as Israeli soldiers travel on mobile artillery units after an exercise in the Golan Heights, February 2013.
(photo credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)
The IDF and police are bracing for violent protests on both sides of the Golan Heights border after US President Donald Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the area.
“The IDF and Israel Police are preparing for the possibility of tension in the northern Golan Heights on both sides of the border,” the IDF said Saturday without expanding.
The military has deployed riot control equipment, including tear gas and rubber bullets, as well as snipers, to the northern Golan Heights, reports said.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in 1967 and unilaterally annexed it in 1981. The 1974 ceasefire accord, signed following the previous year’s Yom Kippur War, established a buffer zone between the two enemy countries. It was patrolled by UN troops until peacekeepers were abducted by Syrian rebels in 2014.
Syrian troops recaptured southern Syria in the summer of 2018 seven years after losing the area to rebel groups at the start of the Syrian Civil War. The Syrians returned to their positions, along with Hezbollah operatives. Both UN peacekeepers and Russian Military Police members have been deployed along the border.
On Thursday, Trump tweeted that “After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!”
His tweet, which according to the McClatchy news agency surprised members of his own Middle East peace team, the State Department and Israeli officials, upended years of US policy.
“We all found out by tweet,” an Israeli official was quoted as saying. “We’ve been lobbying for this for a long time, but it was not the product of one phone call. There were hints, but we weren’t given advance notice.”
Syria slammed Trump’s move, calling it “irresponsible” and that it “confirms “the blind bias of the United States to the Zionist entity.”
Syria’s state news agency SANA quoted a senior Foreign Ministry source as saying Syria would recover the Golan Heights “through all available means” and that Trump’s move wouldn’t change “the fact that the Golan was and will remain Arab and Syrian.”
While approximately half of the Golan’s residents are Jewish Israelis, some 20,000 are Druze, many of whom are Syrian citizens.
On Saturday, hundreds of people in the Druze town of Majdal Shams on the Golan rallied against Trump’s decision.
“Trump can make his statements and say he wants to make the Golan part of Israel. But we know this will stay Syrian land,” said Sheikh Mahmoud Nazeeh, 70.
Amal Safadi, 54, a librarian, said: “Our blood is Syrian. If you take a blood test for a child, it will read Syrian.”
In a statement published Friday by SANA, Druze were quoted as saying that Trump’s statement on the Golan is because of “the current political scene, which is due to the steadfastness of the resistance axis and the failure of the hostile project against Syria.
“The Syrian Arab people in Golan, as they in the past stood in the face of the French occupation, they will continue today to adhere to their national stance undermining many of the occupation’s projects, on top the annexation project, and they adhere to the will which hasn’t been defeated.”Reuters contributed to this report.
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