President Donald Trump officially recognizes Israeli sovereignty of Golan Heights

President Donald Trump holds up a signed proclamation recognizing Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House. (AP)
Updated 26 March 2019
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President Donald Trump officially recognizes Israeli sovereignty of Golan Heights

  • Israel captured the region from Syria in 1967 war
  • Gulf Cooperation Council last week expressed regret at Donald Trump's plan

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump officially recognized Israel's sovereignty of the Golan Heights in Washington on Monday.

The document reverses more than a half-century of US policy as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the White House.

Trump had previewed the move in a tweet last week, in which he said the US would take the step after 52 years of Israeli occupation of the strategic highlands on the border with Syria.

Israel captured the region from Syria in 1967 but its sovereignty over the territory is not recognized by the international community.

Reaction across the Middle East widely denouced Trump's decision, with the Syrian government calling Washington's recognition of Israeli claims over the territory an attack on its sovereignty.

“In a blatant attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria, the president of the US has recognised the annexation of the Syrian Golan,” a foreign ministry source said, according to state news agency SANA.

“Trump does not have the right and the legal authority to legitimise the occupation,” the unnamed source said.

The president of the Arab Parliament, Dr. Mishaal bin Fahm Al-Salami, categorically rejected Trump's decision, condemning it and saying it was “null and void” with “no legal effect,” according to Saudi Press Agency.

He pointed out that the American decision threatened the international order and “shook its foundations” and that it would increase tension and instability, as well as the peace and security of the region.

Lebanon also slammed the decision and Jordan rejected Trump's recognition of “occupied Syrian territory.”

Last Friday, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) expressed regret at Donald Trump's plan to recognise Israel's sovereignty over the territory.

Trump's statement “will not change the reality that (...) the Arab Golan Heights is Syrian land occupied by Israel by military force in 1967,” said Abdul Latif Al Zayani, the GCC secretary general.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said he condemned the move by the US.

After Trump's decision, Russia warned it would prompt a “new wave” of tensions in the Middle East region. Russia's foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the move “ignores all international procedures” and would “only aggravate the situation.”

“Unfortunately, this could drive a new wave of tensions in the Middle East region,” Zakharova said in a radio broadcast, according to Russian news agencies. 

Russian Foreign Secretary Sergei Lavrov said the US decision leads to “a gross violation of international law, blocks the resolution of the Syrian crisis and aggravates the situation in all the Middle East,” he said during a telephone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, according to his ministry.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said it was “impossible” for his country to accept Trump’s decision, and added his country would take action, including at the United Nations.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it was “clear that the status of the Golan has not changed,” according to a UN spokesman.

The move came on the same day that Israel’s military launched strikes on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, hours after a rocket from the Palestinian enclave hit a house and wounded seven Israelis.

Witnesses and a security source in Gaza told AFP there had been at least two strikes on a site belonging to Hamas’s military wing in the west of the Gaza Strip. Details were not yet clear on the strikes.

(With Agencies)


Amnesty urges Lebanon to help end domestic worker abuse

An Asian domestic worker walks her employer's dog in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, on April 23, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 24 April 2019
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Amnesty urges Lebanon to help end domestic worker abuse

  • Ethiopia and the Philippines have banned their citizens from domestic work in Lebanon, but still their citizens find ways to come

BEIRUT: Amnesty International on Wednesday urged Lebanon to end what it described as an “inherently abusive” migration sponsorship system governing the lives of tens of thousands of foreigners working in private homes.
Domestic workers in Lebanon are excluded from the labor law, and instead obtain legal residency though their employers’ sponsorship under the so-called “kafala” system.
But activists say this leaves the maids, nannies and carers at the mercy of their employers and unable to leave without their permission, including in numerous documented cases of abuse.
“Amnesty International is calling on the Lebanese authorities to end the kafala system and extend labor protections to migrant domestic workers,” the London-based rights group said.
“The Lebanese parliament should amend the labor law to include domestic workers under its protection,” including to allow them to join unions, the group said.
Lebanon hosts more than 250,000 registered domestic workers from countries in Africa and Asia, the vast majority of them women.
In a report released Wednesday titled “Their house is my prison,” Amnesty surveyed 32 domestic workers employed mostly in and around Beirut, revealing “alarming patterns of abuse.”
Among them, 10 women said they were not allowed to leave their employer’s house, with some saying they were locked in.
Twenty-seven said their employers had confiscated their passports.
Many worked overtime, 14 were not allowed a single day off each week, and several had their monthly salaries revoked or decreased, despite it being a breach of their contracts.
The labor ministry introduced a standard contract for domestic workers in 2009, but the forms are often written in Arabic, a language they cannot read.
The government in late 2018 said it had translated the contracts into several other languages.
Amnesty registered eight cases of forced labor and four of human trafficking, the report said.
Six reported severe physical abuse, while almost all had been subjected to humiliating treatment and several were deprived of food.
“Sometimes I would get so hungry... I used to mix water with sugar when I was hungry and drink it,” one worker said.
With the abuse taking a toll on their mental health, six said they had contemplated or attempted suicide.
Only four of those interviewed had private rooms, while the rest were relegated to living rooms, storage rooms, kitchens or balconies.
“There is a man in the house who can enter the living room any time he wants,” said one worker who was forced to sleep in the living room.
Activists accuse the Lebanese authorities of being lax in bringing abusive employers to account.
Ethiopia and the Philippines have banned their citizens from domestic work in Lebanon, but still their citizens find ways to come.
In 2008, Human Rights Watch found that migrant domestic workers in Lebanon were dying at a rate of more than one per week from suicide or in failed escapes.
Many other countries in the Arab world also follow the “kafala” system for household workers.