Golan Heights

The Golan Heights (Arabic: هضبة الجولان‎ Haḍbatu 'l-Jawlān or مرتفعات الجولان Murtafaʻātu l-Jawlān, Hebrew: רמת הגולן‎, Ramat ha-Golan ), also called the Golan or the Syrian Golan, is a region in the Levant. The exact region defined as the Golan Heights changes among disciplines:

  • As a geological and biogeographical region, the Golan Heights is a basaltic plateau bordered by the Yarmouk River in the south, the Sea of Galilee and Hula Valley in the west, Mount Hermon in the north, and the Raqqad Wadi in the east. The western two thirds of this region are currently occupied by Israel, whereas the eastern third is controlled by Syria.
  • As a geopolitical region, the Golan Heights is the area conquered by Israel from Syria in the Six-Day War, and subsequently annexed by Israel in 1981. This region includes the western two thirds of the geological Golan Heights, as well as the Israeli occupied part of Mount Hermon.

The earliest evidence of human habitation dates to the Upper Paleolithic period. According to the Bible, an Amorite Kingdom in Bashan was conquered by Israelites during the reign of King Og. Throughout the Old Testament period, the Golan was "the focus of a power struggle between the Kings of Israel and the Aramaeans who were based near modern-day Damascus." The Itureans, an Arab or Aramaic people, settled there in the 2nd century BCE and remained until the end of the Byzantine period. Organized Jewish settlement in the region came to an end in 636 CE when it was conquered by Arabs under Umar ibn al-Khattāb. In the 16th century, the Golan was conquered by the Ottoman Empire and was part of the Vilayet of Damascus until it was transferred to French control in 1918. When the mandate terminated in 1946, it became part of the newly independent Syrian Arab Republic.

Internationally recognized as Syrian territory, the Golan Heights has been occupied and administered by Israel since 1967. It was captured during the 1967 Six-Day War, establishing the Purple Line.

On 19 June 1967, the Israeli cabinet voted to return the Golan to Syria in exchange for a peace agreement. Such overtures were dismissed by the Arab world with the Khartoum Resolution on September 1, 1967. In the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israel agreed to return about 5% of the territory to Syrian civilian control. This part was incorporated into a demilitarised zone that runs along the ceasefire line and extends eastward. This strip is under the military control of UN peace keeping forces.

Construction of Israeli settlements began in the remainder of the territory held by Israel, which was under military administration until Israel passed the Golan Heights Law extending Israeli law and administration throughout the territory in 1981. This move was condemned by the United Nations Security Council in UN Resolution 497, which said that "the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect." Israel asserts it has a right to retain the Golan, citing the text of UN Resolution 242, which calls for "safe and recognised boundaries free from threats or acts of force". However, the international community rejects Israeli claims to title to the territory and regards it as sovereign Syrian territory.

Israeli Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak, and Ehud Olmert each stated that they were willing to exchange the Golan for peace with Syria. Approximately 10% of Syrian Golan Druze have accepted Israeli citizenship. According to the CIA World Factbook, as of 2010, "there are 41 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights."

Read more about Golan Heights:  Etymology and Toponymy, Geography, Peace Negotiations, Territorial Claims, U.S. Position, UNDOF Supervision, Syrian Villages, Israeli Settlements, Landmarks, Viticulture, Hydrocarbon Exploration

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