US call for Israeli sovereignty on Golan ‘contravenes international law’

In this file photo taken on May 22, 2017, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and US President Donald Trump speak upon the latter's arrival at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. (AFP)
Updated 24 March 2019

US call for Israeli sovereignty on Golan ‘contravenes international law’

  • France’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that recognizing Israeli sovereignty would be contrary to international law, in particular the obligation for states not to recognize an illegal situation

BAGHDAD: US President Donald Trump’s statement recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights “contravenes international law,” the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said on Twitter on Saturday.
Trump’s statement on Thursday marked a dramatic shift in US policy over the status of a disputed area that Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East conflict and annexed in 1981 — a move not recognized internationally.
The Syrian regime on Friday asked the UN Security Council to uphold resolutions declaring that Israel withdraw from the Golan Heights.
The regime’s Ambassador Bashar Jaafari urged the council to “take practical measures to ensure that the council is fulfilling ... its mandate in the implementation of its resolutions” concerning the Golan, in a letter seen by AFP.
The council is scheduled to discuss the Golan on Wednesday during a meeting on renewing the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force deployed between Israel and Syria in the Golan, known as UNDOF.
In the letter, the ambassador also asked Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to reaffirm the UN position on Israel’s occupation of the Golan, which it seized from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Asked about Trump’s stance, UN spokesman Farhan Haq said UN policy was based on council resolutions and those of the General Assembly on the status of the Golan.
“The resolutions are of course unchanged,” said Haq. “Our policies have not changed in that regard.”
The US backed Resolution 242 adopted in 1967, which calls on Israel to withdraw from territories it occupied in the Six-Day war and refers to the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.”
The council adopted another resolution in 1973 that reaffirmed the demand for a withdrawal and in 1981, backed a separate measure that rejected Israel’s annexation of the Golan.
After Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a group of Arab countries presented a resolution in 2017 condemning the decision to the General Assembly that won overwhelming support.
UN diplomats said it was premature to speculate as to whether there would be a similar measure in the assembly.
The US move — which came as Trump’s ally, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, faces elections — has caused dismay even among US allies, with France and Britain both saying that they still considered the Golan Heights to be “occupied” by Israel.
Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, feared the consequences of walking away from UN Security Council Resolution 242, which stressed the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.”
“This is the most fundamental principle of international order and was the basis of US opposition to Saddam’s conquest of Kuwait and Putin’s of Crimea,” he said, referring to the 1991 Gulf War in which a US-led coalition freed Kuwait and Russia’s 2014 seizure of the Ukrainian peninsula.
Sweden’s former Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said that Trump was returning to the law of the “jungle.”
“This is a catastrophic departure from the very basis of international law. Kremlin will applaud and apply the same principle to Crimea. Beijing will applaud and apply to South China Sea,” Bildt tweeted.
France’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that recognizing Israeli sovereignty “would be contrary to international law, in particular the obligation for states not to recognize an illegal situation.”
Steven Cook, an expert on the Middle East at the Council on Foreign Relations, in an article in Foreign Policy questioned the need to shake up the status quo, saying that US recognition only triggered fresh opposition to Israel’s longstanding control of the Golan, where 20,000 settlers live.
“In reality, there is no need for the recognition. Israel is in Golan for its own reasons, and nothing the Trump administration decides will change that,” he wrote.
Ilan Goldenberg of the Center for a New American Security said that Trump’s decision “stirs a hornet’s nest that didn’t need stirring.”
“Also, it makes it quite hard for the US to continue to contest Russia’s annexation of Crimea under the principle that taking territory by force is illegal. We now have no leg to stand on and the Russians will use it,” he tweeted.
“So why do it? Because this is awesome for Bibi’s politics,” he said, using Netanyahu’s nickname.

Airstrikes kill 19 civilians in northwest Syria

Updated 08 December 2019

Airstrikes kill 19 civilians in northwest Syria

  • The airstrikes on Idlib province have intensified over the past few weeks

AL-BARA, Syria: Syrian regime and Russian airstrikes on Saturday killed 19 civilians, eight of them children, in the country’s last major opposition bastion, a war monitor said.

The air raids in the rebel-run northwestern region of Idlib also wounded several others, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Airstrikes by regime ally Russia killed four civilians including a child in the village of Al-Bara in the south of the region, the Observatory said.

An AFP correspondent at the scene saw rescue workers pick through the rubble of a two-story home whose concrete roof had collapsed.

Rescuers carried away the body of a victim wrapped in a blanket on a stretcher.

Russian raids also killed nine civilians including three children in the nearby village of Balyun, the Observatory said.

Crude barrel bombs dropped by government helicopters killed five civilians including three children in the village of Abadeeta, also in the same area.

In the southeast of the embattled region, a raid by a regime aircraft killed another child in the village of Bajghas, the Observatory said.

The Britain-based monitor, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria, says it determines the provenance of an airstrike by looking at flight patterns and the aircraft and munitions involved.

The airstrikes on Idlib province have intensified over the past few weeks as the government appears to be preparing for an offensive on rebel-held areas east of the province to secure the main highway that links the capital Damascus with the northern city of Aleppo, Syria’s largest and once commercial center.

The Idlib region, which is home to some 3 million people including many displaced by Syria’s civil war, is controlled by the country’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.

The Damascus regime has repeatedly vowed to take back control of Idlib.

Bashar Assad’s forces launched a blistering military campaign against the region in April, killing around 1,000 civilians and displacing more than 400,000 people from their homes. A cease-fire announced by Moscow has largely held since late August.

But the Observatory says deadly bombardment and skirmishes have persisted, with more than 200 civilians killed in the region since the deal.

Syria’s war has killed over 370,000 people and displaced millions from their homes since beginning in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-Assad protests.

Earlier, the Observatory and the opposition’s Syrian Civil Defense said four people, including a child and two women, were killed in airstrikes on the opposition-held village of Bara.

The Observatory said five others were killed in the village of Ibdeita and a child in another village nearby.

Different casualty figures are common in the immediate aftermath of violence in Syria, where an eight-year conflict has killed about 400,000 people, wounded more than a million and displaced half the country’s prewar population.

Syrian troops launched a four-month offensive earlier this year on Idlib, which is dominated by al-Qaida-linked militants. The government offensive forced hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee their homes.

A fragile cease-fire halted the government advance in late August but has been repeatedly violated in recent weeks.