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.


Sudan holds ‘million-strong’ protest march

Updated 18 min 52 sec ago
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Sudan holds ‘million-strong’ protest march

  • Rally outside the army headquarters comes after the military rulers and protest leaders agreed to set up a joint committee

KHARTOUM: Sudanese protesters began gathering for a “million-strong” march Thursday to turn up the heat on the ruling military council after three of its members resigned following talks on handing over power.
The rally outside the army headquarters comes after the military rulers and protest leaders agreed to set up a joint committee, to chart the way forward two weeks after the downfall of veteran president Omar Al-Bashir.
“We call on our people, who have been demanding a transitional civilian rule, to participate in the million-strong march,” said the Alliance for Freedom and Change, the umbrella group leading the protests.
“Our sit-in will continue to protect our revolution and to ensure that all our demands are achieved,” the alliance said in a statement.
As Thursday’s protest got underway, witnesses in downtown Khartoum said crowds of protesters gathered outside the Egyptian consulate and embassy which were surrounded by riot police.
Several people held banners calling on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi not to “interfere in our affairs,” after Cairo hosted a summit of African leaders calling for more time for a transition to civilian rule in Sudan.
Others held signs reading “no to miliary rulers,” while across the city demonstrators began arriving at the army headquarters from the states of Jazeera and White Nile.
The planned mass march follows a late-night meeting between the military council and leaders of the protest movement’s umbrella group.
“We have an agreement on most demands presented in the document of the Alliance for Freedom and Change,” Lt. Gen. Shamseddine Kabbashi, spokesman of the military council, told reporters afterwards.
He did not elaborate on the key demand of handing power to a civilian government, but said there “were no big disputes.”
The Sudanese Professionals Association, which spearheaded months of protests against Bashir, described the meeting as a step toward “confidence-building.”
“Both sides agreed on the importance of joint cooperation to steer the country toward peace and stability,” the SPA said Thursday.
Writing on Twitter, the association said a “joint committee” was being set up to “discuss outstanding disputes” as part of efforts to reach a “comprehensive agreement.”
After returning from the protest site on Thursday, activist Ahmed Najdi said he was expecting “a joint military-civilian sovereign council, which I think is the middle path and most protesters would agree to that.”
Wednesday’s meeting was followed by the military council announcing three members of the ruling body had stepped down after demands from protesters.
They were Lt. Gen. Omar Zain Al-Abdin, Lt. Gen. Jalaluddin Al-Sheikh and Lt. Gen. Al-Tayieb Babikir.
The late night developments came as Siddiq Farouk, one of the leaders of the protests, said the demonstrators were also preparing for a general strike if the military council refuses to hand power to a civilian administration.
The council, led by General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan since his predecessor quit after barely 24 hours in the post, says it has assumed power for a two-year transitional period.
Despite Bashir’s fall, demonstrators have kept up their encampment outside the military headquarters to press their demands.
For the first time, Sudanese judges said they would join the sit-in on Thursday “to support change and for an independent judiciary.”
Protesters in Khartoum were joined Wednesday by hundreds of demonstrators from the central town of Madani, the second major batch of new arrivals from outside the capital in as many days.
“Revolutionaries from Madani want civilian rule,” they chanted, according to witnesses.
The previous day a train laden with demonstrators rolled from Atbara, where protests began on December 19 against a decision by Bashir’s government to triple bread prices.
They swiftly turned into nationwide rallies against his rule and that of the military council that took his place.
The protesters have found support in Washington, which has backed their call for civilian rule.
“We support the legitimate demand of the people of Sudan for a civilian-led government, and we are here to urge and to encourage parties to work together to advance that agenda as soon as possible,” State Department official Makila James told AFP on Tuesday.