Israeli landmines in the occupied Golan Heights pose a lethal risk to farmers.

~Matt Broomfield, Electronic Intifada

“Listen,” Salman Fakherldeen said. “Do you hear?”

Below the drone of a farmer’s tractor, the distant clatter of automatic gunfire steadily increased in volume and intensity.

Fakherldeen is an activist in the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights and a researcher with the Golan-based human rights center al-Marsad. Martial beret screwed down over his head, he paused for thought as he smoked a cigarette, watching shells explode on the Syrian plains beyond the demilitarized zone.

“The only winners now are [Bashar] Assad and the Israelis,” he said. “And in the end, Assad will lose as well.”

The equation leaves only one victor – and the Golan Heights are the spoils of war. As fighting tears its once stable if hostile northern neighbor apart, Israel is using the specter of the Islamic State group and Islamist militancy to seek international recognition for its annexation of the area, occupied since 1967.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, thus chose last year to declare that the Golan Heights will “forever remain in Israeli hands,” taking full advantage of the chaos in Syria to openly challenge international law.

“The time has come, after 40 years, for the international community to finally recognize that the Golan Heights will remain forever under Israeli sovereignty,” he said.

Naftali Bennett, Israel’s education minister, also made a play for the annexation of the Golan to be internationally recognized, specifically citing the threat of Islamic State. The Golan, he said, was the only thing preventing Islamic State fighters from “swimming in the Galilee.”

Continue reading at the Electronic Intifada.

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