Golan Druze protest Trump’s pledge to Israel

Druze people take part in a rally over U.S. President Donald Trump's support for Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, in Majdal Shams near the ceasefire line between Israel and Syria in the Israeli occupied Golan Heights March 23, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 March 2019
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Golan Druze protest Trump’s pledge to Israel

  • Wasef Khatar, a Druze community representative, said Trump was making commitments on “Arab, Syrian land, not Israeli”

GOLAN HEIGHTS: Druze on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights took to the streets in protest at US President Donald Trump’s pledge to recognise the Jewish state’s sovereignty there.
Trump broke with decades of US Middle East policy, and longstanding international consensus, when he posted a Tweet on Thursday that said it was time to accept Israel’s widely contested claim to the strategic plateau.
Tens of thousands of Syrians fled or were expelled when Israel seized part of the Golan during the 1967 Six-Day War, subsequently annexing it in 1981.
Some remained, however, and today around 23,000 Druze reside in the Israeli-controlled sector, alongside 25,000 Israeli settlers.
On Saturday Druze men, women and children rallied in the town of Majdal Shams, adjacent to the armistice line between the Golan’s Israeli and Syrian-controlled sectors. They waved Druze and Syrian flags.
Trump will sign an order recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights when he meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington on Monday, Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz announced on Twitter.
“President Trump will sign tomorrow in the presence of PM Netanyahu an order recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” FKatz wrote on Twitter.

Wasef Khatar, a Druze community representative, said Trump was making commitments on “Arab, Syrian land, not Israeli.”
“We reject the decision of the American president Trump because he is talking about something he doesn own,” he said in Arabic.
Trump’s move was hinted at a week ago when the US State Department changed its description of the area from “occupied” to “Israeli-controlled”.
It is yet to be made operative by an act of Congress or an executive order.
Israel regards the Golan as a strategic asset, because its hills overlook northern Israeli towns, particularly near its inland Sea of Galilee. Around 20,000 Jewish settlers live in the Golan itself, many working in farming, leisure and tourism.
Many Israeli commentators saw Trump’s declaration as a timely boost for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of Israeli elections scheduled for April 9, in which he has been dogged by corruption allegations.
But some Israelis living in and around the Golan said Trump’s gesture would change little on the ground.
“The US recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the Golan makes us happy. However, our daily routine does not involve dealing with whether Israeli sovereignty is being recognised or not,” said Haim Rokah, head of the regional Israeli council in the Golan.
Rami Yogev, 65, a resident of Dan kibbutz, which is overlooked by the Golan, said he remembers shelling from the then Syrian-controlled heights onto his town during the 1967 war.
“I don’t think Trump’s announcement will make any difference here. It’s not going to change anything. The residents in the Golan already feel like they’re Israelis. They have a better life than being in Syria or any Arab country — just look what happened in the war in Syria,” he said.


US puts up $10m reward for Hezbollah information

Updated 23 April 2019
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US puts up $10m reward for Hezbollah information

  • The money is for anyone who provides intelligence that allows the US to disrupt Hezbollah in key ways

WASHINGTON: The US on Monday offered a $10 million reward for information that would disrupt the finances of Lebanon’s Shiite militant movement Hezbollah.
The State Department said it would give the money to anyone who provides intelligence that allows the US to disrupt Hezbollah in key ways.
The areas include information on Hezbollah’s donors, on financial institutions that assist its transactions and on businesses controlled by the movement.
President Donald Trump’s administration has put a top priority on reducing the influence of Iran, the primary backer of Hezbollah.
The State Department listed three alleged Hezbollah financiers as examples of activities it was seeking to stop, with one, Ali Youssef Charara, allegedly funding the group by investing millions of dollars from Hezbollah in the telecommunications industry in West Africa.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has pointed to a recent appeal by Hezbollah for donations as a sign of US success in curbing Iran.
On a visit last month to Beirut, Pompeo urged Lebanon to counter the “dark ambitions” of Iran and Hezbollah but was rebuffed by Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, who said Hezbollah was not a terrorist group and enjoyed a wide base.
The United States has vowed for decades to fight Shiite militants in Lebanon, with memories still bitter over the 1983 attack on a military barracks in Beirut that killed 241 Americans.
Hezbollah, however, also functions as a political party, with posts in the current cabinet, and enjoys support among some Lebanese who recall its guerrilla campaign that led Israel to withdraw from the country in 2000.