US criticized for recognizing Israeli sovereignty over Golan

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it in 1981. (AFP)
Updated 29 March 2019
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US criticized for recognizing Israeli sovereignty over Golan

  • Syria’s closest ally Russia urged governments to continue to view the Golan Heights as Israeli-occupied territory
  • Trump’s proclamation that the Golan Heights are part of Israel raised questions about the future of UNDOF after its mandate expires on June 30

UNITED NATIONS: The US came under sharp criticism from the 14 other Security Council nations Wednesday for its decision to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights in violation of council resolutions.
Speaker after speaker at the open meeting supported Syria’s sovereignty over the strategic plateau and opposed Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights and President Donald Trump’s proclamation earlier this week.
As South Africa’s UN Ambassador Jerry Matjila said, “this unilateral action does nothing to assist in finding a long-term peaceful solution to the conflict in the Middle East.”
He and others pointed to resolutions calling for Israel to end its occupation of the Golan Heights, including a December 1981 Security Council resolution that called Israel’s annexation of the strategic area “null and void and without international legal effect.”
Syria’s closest ally Russia urged governments to continue to view the Golan Heights as Israeli-occupied territory.
“If anybody feels any temptation to follow this poor example, we would urge them to refrain from this aggressive revision of international law,” Russia’s deputy ambassador Vladimir Safronkov said.
While Syria got support on its sovereignty over the Golan Heights, German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen and Britain’s Ambassador Karen Pierce also used the meeting to criticize President Bashar Assad’s government for bombing civilians, using chemical weapons and violating human rights violations during the ongoing eight-year civil war.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it in 1981. A 1974 cease-fire agreement that officially ended the 1973 Mideast war led to the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force known as UNDOF on the Golan Heights.
Trump’s proclamation that the Golan Heights are part of Israel raised questions about the future of UNDOF after its mandate expires on June 30.
US political coordinator Rodney Hunter told the council UNDOF has “a vital role to play in preserving stability between Israel and Syria,” an assurance that the Trump administration’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the strategic plateau won’t affect its operation.
He said the force’s mandate to ensure that the area of separation between Syria and Israel “is a buffer zone free from any military presence or activities” is of “critical strategic and security importance” to Israel, and “can contribute to the stability of the entire Middle East.”
Hunter said US recognition that the Golan Heights are part of Israel doesn’t affect the 1974 cease-fire agreement, “nor do we believe that it undermines UNDOF’s mandate in any way.”
He strongly criticized “the daily presence of the Syrian armed forces” in the area of separation, where UNDOF is the only military force allowed, calling their presence a violation of the 1974 cease-fire agreement.
The US calls on Russia to use its influence with President Bashar Assad “to compel the Syrian forces to uphold their commitment” to the cease-fire agreement “and immediately withdraw from the area of separation,” Hunter said.
UN peacekeeping chief Jean Pierre Lacroix told the council there is “a continued significant threat” to UNDOF personnel from explosive remnants of war, “and from the possible presence of sleeper cells of armed groups including (UN) listed terrorist groups.”
Undersecretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo expressed hope that “the recent developments will not be used as an excuse by anyone to pursue actions that could undermine the relative stability of the situation on Golan and beyond.”


Israel braces for more wildfires as temperatures spike

Updated 24 May 2019
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Israel braces for more wildfires as temperatures spike

  • Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes on Thursday as fires raged
  • The fires were fueled by high temperatures and dry condition

JERUSALEM: Israel is bracing for renewed wildfires amid a major heat wave that shows no signs of abating.
Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes on Thursday as fires raged, fueled by high temperatures and dry conditions.
The EU ambassador, Emanuele Giaufret, said Israel had asked for international help to combat the fires, and aid was arriving on Friday from Cyprus and Italy.
Plumes of smoke rose from hillsides in the country’s center and south as firefighters worked into the early hours to control the blaze.
The cause of the blaze remains unclear, but it erupted following the Jewish festival of Lag Ba’Omer, which observers mark with bonfires.
A sweltering heat wave is pushing temperatures in parts of the country up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, or 43 Celsius.