Friday, 22 March, 2019

Washington No Longer Refers to Golan as 'Israel-Occupied'

Hizbollah commander captured by UK special forces resurfaces in southern Syria, Israeli military says Satellite imagery appears to show Iran building advanced missile factory in Syria
Jeannette Daniel | 15 March, 2019, 09:52

Six years after senior Hezbollah operative Ali Mussa Daqduq was released from an Iraqi prison for the murder of five American servicemen, he has resurfaced mere miles from Israel's border on the Syrian Golan Heights as the mastermind of a new and unsafe Hezbollah terror network.

Diplomat Michael Kozak acknowledged the change in a briefing Wednesday.

Spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, expressed displeasure at the change in terminology.

With regard to whether a policy shift had occurred within the State Department, an official commented, "The policy on the status of the territories has not changed", adding that the the report focuses on human rights matters, not terms related to global law.

A separate section in the report, on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip also did not refer to those territories as being occupied or under occupation.

Netanyahu travels to Washington later this month to address the pro-Israeli lobby AIPAC, and Israeli media reports said he also plans to hold talks with Trump, with the Golan recognition issue on the agenda. UN Resolution 2334 calls Israeli settlement activity on the territory a "flagrant violation" of worldwide law with "no legal validity".

Israel seized 1,200 square kilometres (460 square miles) from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the worldwide community.

More news: Shooting at a mosque in New Zealand's Christchurch; casualties feared

The Israel Defense Forces announced on Wednesday that it recently uncovered a Hezbollah terror network on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.

The U.S. and worldwide bodies have never recognized the territory as Israeli, instead referring to it as occupied by Israel.

Israel's occupation of the West Bank continues.

Formal U.S. acceptance of Israel's territorial claim could bolster Netanyahu's re-election prospects in a closely contested race as he battles corruption allegations, which he denies.

Months later, the United States ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, said Israel will hold on to the Syrian territory indefinitely.

"The field operatives who fill the ranks of the network and act exclusively in Syria are composed of various groups and networks who previously took part in terrorist activity in the Golan Heights under the notorious network of Kantar and Mughniyeh", the army said.

Lindsey Graham, an influential U.S. senator allied to President Donald Trump, toured the Golan with Netanyahu this week and vowed to work to have Washington recognise it as part of Israel "now and forever". "I frankly can not imagine a situation in which the Golan Heights is not part of Israel forever", Friedman told the right-wing Israel Hayom newspaper at the time.

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