Christof Lehmann (nsnbc) : Syrians in the Israeli occupied Syrian Golan Heights have rallied in protest against the Israeli occupation, illegal oppression of Syrian culture and identity, outspoken plans to permanently annex the Syrian territory and Israel’s use of the Golan for military action against Syria and the support of Al-Qaeda and ISIL linked insurgents in their fight against the Syrian State.

Golan Heights_Syria_2016Spokespersons for Syrians in the Israeli occupied Golan Heights stressed the people’s determination to resists Israel’s occupation and what they described as Israel’s brutal exercise of power. Moreover, Syrians expressed their determination to overcome and defeat terrorism by and linked to Israel.

The Golan Heights were occupied by Israel on June 10 during the 1967 war, the last day of the so-called Six-Day-War. Quneitra was briefly liberated again during the 1973 war but fell into the hands of Israel again as cooperation between Arab forces went into disarray and Israel took advantage of the situation. Quneitra was again liberated in 1974 under the leadership of the late Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad.

Israel has since then increasingly violated the rights of Syrians in the occupied Golan Heights as well as international law. Israel has refused to adhere to UN resolutions and international law by refusing to hand the region back to Syria. Israel has, in violation of international law, established an Israeli administration with Israeli as official administrative language, enforced the implementation of Israeli curricula at schools, and a cohort of other measures that aim at cementing the planned permanent annexation of the Golan Heights.

Golan Heights_Feb 2016 protests_SyriaUN Human Rights Council Stresses Israeli Violations

In the 2011 Periodic Review of the Syrian Arab Republic the UNHRC Working Group noted among others:

1. In recent months, the Syrian Arab Republic has been subjected to a series of criminal attacks against the nation and the people by armed terrorist groups. These attacks, which continue to the present time, have been accompanied by an unprecedented media campaign of lies and allegations targeting national security, stability and unity. The campaign has been supported by certain Western States that are bent on discrediting and weakening the Syrian Arab Republic and getting it to change its political position on the challenges facing the region. The groups involved have committed offences against the Syrian people, and acts of theft, murder and vandalism. They have also exploited peaceful demonstrations in order to create anarchy, strike a blow at national unity and destroy the social fabric of the nation. These groups have deliberately caused mayhem and murder and destroyed public and private property. They have stirred up religious and inter-confessional strife and exploited legitimate, peaceful and orderly calls for reform emanating from members of the nation. These terrorist acts have been accompanied by a concerted misinformation campaign that has been waged by Arab and international media. The campaign began with the fabrication of stories about events in the Syrian Arab Republic with advanced visual and communications technology being used to show fake footage, allegedly of events unfolding in the Syrian Arab Republic.

2. The Syrian Arab Republic, which took part in the founding of the United Nations, is guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations when determining its political stance and pursuing efforts to achieve economic, social and cultural development. It abides by the principles of international law, as international law provides a solid foundation for the observance of human rights.

3. The Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan, since June 1967, is, however, a major obstacle to the enjoyment by Syrian citizens in the occupied Golan of their economic, political and social rights and the full exploitation of the Golan’s natural resources.

101. As for the main challenges to development, there is no escaping the fact that the biggest obstacle is foreign occupation. It is because of the occupation that emergency measures remained in effect for several years. This situation has done nothing to create an ideal environment for the proper protection of the human rights of the people of the occupied Syrian Golan. If a decision has been taken to end the state of emergency, the Israeli occupation, foreign interference in the internal affairs of States and the imposition of unilateral sanctions have done nothing to preserve and harvest the fruits of sustained efforts by the State to promote human rights. The continuing occupation of a part of the territory of the State hampers efforts to further develop human rights, as resources are spent on defence requirements and defence budgets which should be used instead to meet social development needs, create the conditions for the promotion of human rights, close the gender gap and achieve social and economic progress.

102. Attention must be drawn to some of the challenges facing the people of the occupied Syrian Golan, namely, the occupation of part of the Syrian territory and grave violations of human rights by Israel, the occupying Power. Hence, despite the adoption of international laws, consisting in resolutions in which the United Nations and its specialized agencies have rejected the decision taken by the Israeli Knesset in 1981 to impose Israeli law on the occupied Syrian Golan and in Security Council resolution 497 (1981), in which the Council declared the Israeli annexation of Syrian Arab territory to be null and void, and numerous other resolutions in which the General Assembly and Human Rights Council declare the decision of Israel to impose its laws and jurisdiction on the occupied Syrian Golan to be illegal and call on Israel to abide by General Assembly and Security Council resolutions, Israel committed yet another breach of international law on 9 December 2009. The Knesset decided to hold a referendum on a motion stating that any agreement that would lead to an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Syrian Golan and East Jerusalem must be approved by more than 80 per cent of Israeli citizens. This is a flagrant violation of international law, which prohibits the seizure of the territory of others by force. It is also incompatible with Security Council resolution 497 (1981).

103. Moreover, in June 2011, Israel set about building a racist separation wall to the east of Majdal al-Shams in the occupied Syrian Golan. The wall that Israel has begun to build will cut off parts of the occupied Syrian Golan from the interior and sever the geographical links between the Golan and the Syrian homeland. Large tracts of land — estimated in the hundreds of dunums — that belong to Syrian Arab farmers were stolen from them by means of illegal expropriations carried out in the mid-1970s. The purpose of the construction of the separation wall in the occupied Syrian Golan is to create a new political and security situation on the ground. The wall will also have an extremely negative impact on the people of the occupied Syrian Golan, in that it will separate them physically from their Syrian homeland and sever their geographical connection with it. This initiative should be set against the backdrop of ongoing Israeli policies of aggression towards the people of the Golan, involving imprisonment, displacement, exorbitant fines, court trials and the dismissal of workers from their jobs.

104. As for the suffering inflicted on Syrian Arabs in Israeli prisons, nine Syrian Arabs of the occupied Golan are languishing in prison. In the annex to the report, details can be found of their names, dates of imprisonment and the length of their prison sentences. These people were incarcerated in Israeli prisons on trumped-up charges and, along with their fellow Arabs in Israeli prisons in the occupied territories, live in harsh conditions that have been condemned by international human rights organizations. They are subjected to the worst forms of physical and psychological torture, consisting in their use in scientific experiments, and are held in prisons that are far from their homes. Moreover, the occupation authorities create problems and obstacles for relatives and family members who try to visit these prisoners. The Israeli security services deliberately subject Syrian Arab prisoners to exemplary punishment and psychological intimidation in an attempt to weaken their stance on political and national social issues. They subject them to harsh conditions of imprisonment and deliberate medical neglect. As a result, these prisoners have contracted many illnesses such as cancer, and have also had heart attacks. This entire state of affairs amounts to a breach of the declaration on human rights principles in armed conflict, the basic principles of the legal status of the combatants struggling against colonial and alien domination and racist regimes, which is considered an amendment to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Additional Protocols of 1977, and General Assembly resolution 3103 (XXVIII) of 1973, in which the Assembly describes occupation and continuing occupation as a crime and recognizes the inherent right of people under occupation to resist occupation by all means, and of the Convention against the Taking of Hostages signed at New York in 1979.

105. In what constitutes a grave violation of economic rights in the occupied Syrian Golan, the Israeli authorities have employed various methods to expropriate land, build new settlements and attract new settlers. These methods mainly involve the following: the expropriation of land belonging to displaced persons, which is then declared to be public property; the expansion of 28 new settlement projects to absorb 1,200 newly arrived Jewish families; the extension of the water pipe network; and the digging of new wells in the occupied Syrian Golan. The Israeli occupation authorities have furthermore adopted policies aimed at taking control of the water in the occupied Syrian Golan and depriving the Syrian Arab population of access to it by various means. The authorities exploit all of the water in Banyas River and some of the water from Lake Tiberias which belongs to the Syrian Arab Republic. Israel uses it to store and distribute water in the River Jordan and River Yarmuk system. It also exploits all of the water in the Hamah River in the Syrian Arab Republic and has tried to change its very nature by putting crocodiles in it. The Israeli occupation authorities furthermore pursue a policy of imposing exorbitant taxes on Arab citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan to break down their resistance and their opposition to the occupation.

106. As for violations of cultural rights by the Israeli occupation authorities, Israeli archaeologists have been engaged to consolidate the occupation and launch an assault on Syrian Arab cultural property in the occupied Syrian Arab Golan by misrepresenting the established facts about the area. Israeli practices are furthermore designed to erase the Arab cultural identity of the people of the Golan, to impose Israeli teaching curricula and to distort the facts about the geography and history of the occupied Golan by wiping out the Arab names of villages, localities and streets and replacing them with Hebrew names.

107. With regard to the right to education, the few schools that there are in the occupied Syrian Golan are overcrowded and unfit to provide an education because of hygiene issues. The Israeli authorities provide no services worth mentioning, even though students pay exorbitant school fees. The occupation authorities refuse to issue Syrian Arab doctors and pharmacists who graduate elsewhere with licences to practise in the occupied Syrian Golan. As a result, these people are forced to emigrate in order to find work.

108. With regard to the right to health, the Israeli occupation authorities continue to impose high fees on the population of the occupied Syrian Golan for medical tests, treatment and health insurance premiums that exceed their modest incomes. The five occupied Arab villages in the Golan still suffer from a chronic shortage of health centres and clinics, as they do not have a hospital.

109. The situation of workers in the Golan is one facet of the general situation confronting Syrian Arab citizens who are weighed down by the Israeli occupation and attempts to control the land and crush people who reject the occupation. The Israeli occupation authorities harass Syrian workers and do not allow them to establish trade unions to protect their rights. Hence, these workers are denied trade union rights in breach of the International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions (Nos. 87 and 98) on trade union freedom and the right to organize.

110. Syrian women in the occupied Golan suffer from the painful situation and adverse psychological, social and physical effects that 40 years of occupation have created and the savage practices, crimes and acts of collective punishment that have been associated with the racist, Zionist occupation throughout its history. Syrian women and men in the occupied Golan live with the harsh reality of family separation, where one part of a family lives in the Syrian homeland and the other in the occupied zone. The occupation authorities forbid private visits between families on the banks of the Golan, with the result that people in the east of Majdal al-Shams have to use megaphones to communicate with their loved ones from behind a barbed wire fence erected by the occupation forces to keep people apart.

111. Even children are not spared from Israeli practices that are all-encompassing. Israel pays no heed to the rights of Syrian Arab children for which provision is made in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The policy of occupation has led to the displacement of thousands of Syrians in the Golan, with these people being left without a home and stripped of their land. This situation has a knock-on effect on the lives and education of children.

112. The greatest threat to the population of the Middle East region and neighbouring States is the burial by Israel of nuclear material in the occupied territories. The deliberate Israeli practice of laying mines and burying nuclear waste in the occupied Syrian Golan is a flagrant violation of article 55 of the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, which states that care should be taken in warfare to protect the natural environment against widespread, long-term and severe damage, and that attacks against the natural environment by way of reprisals are prohibited.

113. The recent global financial, economic, climate and food crises have done much to frustrate the hopes for development that were raised by the measures introduced by the State and have had a negative impact on the lives of citizens. These crises have placed a heavy strain on the State budget and on efforts to implement and follow-up on the measures and policies introduced to give effect to citizens’ economic and social rights.

114. Limited resources, funding shortages and demographic growth have put a break on the State’s ability to deliver on its domestic commitments. At times, the State has difficulty achieving the results that it would wish to see because of unforeseen expenses that have led to resources being diverted with the result that it cannot deliver on its promises on the ground.

115. The Syrian Arab Republic hosts large numbers of refugees out of a desire to alleviate their suffering and safeguard their fundamental human rights. Indeed, refugees account for 12 per cent of the population. The Syrian Government does everything it can with the limited resources at its disposal to meet refugees’ needs. Despite the tremendous efforts of the Syrian Arab Republic — both the Government and the people — to provide the refugees with help in a way that demonstrates respect for their dignity, pending their return to their native land, the burden is very heavy indeed and the nation does not have the capacity to bear it on its own. The Syrian Arab Republic is a developing country, where average per capita income does not exceed $1,200 per annum. The costs to the Government of hosting Iraqi refugees is estimated at around $2 million a year. Moreover, in 2010, the Syrian Arab Republic spent in the order of $225,806,915 on assistance to Palestine refugees registered with the General Authority for Palestine Refugees.

116. In mid-March, a limited number of peaceful protests broke out in some parts of the country. As the demands made by the protestors were achievable at the time, the political leadership acceded to them promptly, taking the steps outlined above. It ended the state of emergency, abolished the Supreme State Security court, and enacted a new legislative decree which, for the first time in Syrian history, established in law recognition of the right to peaceful protest as a fundamental human right. Anti-corruption measures were introduced, together with measures to raise citizens’ living standards. In order to promote the successful implementation of these reforms and establish a new governmental framework to oversee the process, the Government resigned and a new Government was formed. Changes were made in a number of government posts and some regional governors resigned. Moreover, additional measures were taken by the Government to boost the reform process. For example, by Decree No. 49 of 8 April 2011, more than 200,000 persons registered as foreigners in the Hasakeh register were granted Syrian Arab nationality.

117. In parallel with these measures, the President of the Republic received delegations representing ordinary people from virtually every governorate of the country, with whom he had an exchange of views and a discussion of their demands. Based on these exchanges, the President issued instructions that all the achievable demands that were made must be met. The Syrian Arab Republic engaged in a comprehensive national dialogue exercise that led to the formation of a high-level committee representing political parties and well-known individuals of independent standing to promote wider participation in decision-making and strengthen national dialogue.

118. While the State was working hard to meet the achievable demands of the people and carry out reforms as swiftly as possible, some extremist armed groups exploited the situation to undermine national security and stability. They launched an assault against State security in order to serve an agenda designed not to bring about reform but rather to damage the country’s image, weaken national sentiment and cast doubt on the credibility of national and domestic policies. To these ends, they created anarchy, destroyed public and private property and killed civilians and military personnel. Throughout this period, the forces of law and order exercised the utmost self-restraint and refrained from shooting on these groups in order to avoid killing innocent civilians. Many members of the security services, the military and the Armed Forces were killed by terrorist groups. This proves that these groups do have weapons and are using them against the forces of law and order in the Syrian Arab Republic. Moreover, some of these events were staged to damage the national economy and thus increase the political pressure on the State and citizens and destroy the national consensus on reform. It is clear that certain elements in the country and abroad were bent on exploiting the genuine demands of the people to stir up internal strife and undermine the nation’s political and economic security and stability as well as national sovereignty.

119. Once it became clear that some groups that passed themselves off as members of the opposition — groups that did not want reform but wanted to see the nation torn apart and were prepared to use violence and terror to precipitate a crisis — it was natural that State institutions should have hastened to respond to the demands of the people to save them from these extremist terrorist groups and to restore order throughout the nation. This is exactly what happened in certain parts of the country. These groups destroyed and burned down government buildings and the security forces then discovered large caches of sophisticated weapons, including bombs, bullets and advanced communications equipment, that had been smuggled across the border. Those who were caught admitted their crimes and acknowledged that huge sums of money had been spent to carry them out. No State would accept such a situation or justify it in any way. These persons are being prosecuted in accordance with provisions of Syrian law that are consistent with international law and international human rights law and in keeping with the role of the State in protecting public and private property, a role which is no different from that of any other State facing the same kind of attacks. In a spirit of complete transparency, the Syrian Government received a delegation from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and a delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to discuss the general situation in the Syrian Arab Republic.

Voluntary efforts in the human rights domain

120. The Syrian Arab Republic has cooperated and continues to cooperate with the international community, including Governments, international organizations, grass-roots organizations and civil society, with a view to overcoming the obstacles and challenges to the enjoyment of a higher standard of human rights. These obstacles and challenges are: poverty; ignorance; extremism; injustice; racial discrimination; and foreign occupation. Efforts will continue to be made at the national and State levels to promote the rights of all without discrimination, selectivity or politicization.

121. The Syrian Arab Republic acknowledges its abiding commitment to the observance of international law and treaty norms and human rights instruments. It confirms its determination to follow-up on the implementation of comprehensive reforms, not out of a need to yield to outside pressure, but rather because it is convinced of the importance of these reforms.

UNDOF_Gate_Golan_Syria_IsraelRapid Deterioration Since 2011

The Human Rights Council’s Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Twelfth session, Geneva, 3–4 October 2011 also stressed the significant deterioration of public health and health services in Israeli occupied Arab territories, including the Syrian Golan Heights and occupied Palestinian territories.

The situation has deteriorated significantly since the onset of the war in / against Syria in which Israel plays a significant role. In 2013 then Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman declared that Israel and the Golan are part and parcel, and that the international community should accept its annexation by Israel.

Israel Uses Golan Heights to Support Al-Qaeda Insurgents and Direct Military Aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic

In 2013 a withdrawn Austrian officer from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) told the press that Israel had established a joint intelligence room for Israeli military and intelligence services and so-called “rebels”.

Kochavi_IDF_IsraelThe appointment of the Director of Israel’s Military Intelligence, Brigadier General Aviv Kochavi, to headthe Israeli Defense Forces Northern Command underpinned Israel’s commitment with regard to the permanent annexation and Israel’s involvement in a direct and a proxy war against the Syrian Arab Republic via the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights as well as via the Israeli-occupied Lebanese Sheba Farm area.

On 19 February that year the Israeli Jerusalem Post reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has visited a field hospital which the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have established for fighters, who have been injured in combat with Syrian military forces.

Palestinian and Syrian sources in the region have repeatedly reported that Israel is providing direct military aid to fighters under the banners of Jabhat al-Nusrah, Liwa-al-Islam, and other Al-Qaeda brigades. This support continues and includes medical services in the field hospital, which Netanyahu visited, a joint operations room, logistic and intelligence support as well as direct combat support for mercenaries who are infiltrating from the Israeli occupied Golan. This direct combat support includes Israeli special forces as well as heavy machine gun and artillery support.

The office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu broadcast a video of Netanyahu’s visit to the field hospital. The visit was touted as “humanitarian mission” and branded as a show of Good (Israel) vs. Evil (Assad Regine / Iran). -(see video above).

Image: The UNDOF withdrawal leaves a 12 – 16 km wide corridor uncontrolled by the UNDOF. In 2013 it transpired that Israel is providing support for Jabhat al-Nusrah, which includes a joint intelligence and military operations room in the Israeli occupied Golan, logistic support, weapons, field hospitals, and direct combat support. (Map plotting by Christof Lehmann) Click on map to view full size.

Image: The UNDOF withdrawal leaves a 12 – 16 km wide corridor uncontrolled by the UNDOF. In 2013 it transpired that Israel is providing support for Jabhat al-Nusrah, which includes a joint intelligence and military operations room in the Israeli occupied Golan, logistic support, weapons, field hospitals, and direct combat support. (Map plotting by Christof Lehmann) Click on map to view full size.

Israeli Machinations Result in Withdrawal of UNDOF Troops from Buffer Zone

In  2014 the Israeli support of “rebels”, including Jabhat al-Nusrah, led to a hostage situation that ultimately prompted the UNDOF to withdraw from a 12 – 16 kilometer-wide corridor.  This corridor has since then been used to provide even more direct support for a number of insurgent groups who are fighting against the Syrian Arab Army and Syrian Self-Defense Forces. (see map)

In October 2014 Russia’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Pyotr Ilyichev urged the international community to use its influence on anti-Syrian militants in the Golan Heights to prevent the phase-down of the UNDOF peacekeeping mission. The call from the senior Russian diplomat came about two weeks, after UNDOF troops left the 12-16 km-wide gap in the disengagement zone where foreign-backed Jabhat al-Nusrah and other brigades can move freely to attack Syria. Ilyichev demanded that the international community stop the aggressive manifestations against the UNDOF troops.

The Russian TASS news agency quoted the senior Russian UN diplomat as saying:

“Those who have influence on them must use it actively to keep the situation from getting out of control and prevent the termination of the critically important peacekeeping mission”.

He added that the UNDOF is “an important stabilizing factor in the Golan Heights”.

On September 15 that year the UN announced that most of the UNDOF troops would be relocated from the Syrian side of the Golan to the Israeli occupied side of the Syrian Golan, the so-called Alpha Line. The withdrawal came after skirmishes between the UNDOF troops and Jabhat a-Nusrah and the kidnapping and subsequent release of some 44 UNDOF troops by the al-Qaeda-linked brigades.

Local sources confirmed for nsnbc that the evacuation includes the withdrawal from Camp Faouar as well as at least the UNDOF positions No. 10, 16, 31 and 31 b, as well as position 37. The positions and the corridor in which the foreign-backed Jabhat al-Nusrah brigades have achieved freedom of movement has been plotted into the UNDOF map by nsnbc to provide an overview over the theater. (See map above)

Planned Annexation Fueled by Golan Oil and a Genie

Israel’s planned annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights is not only being fueled by expansionism or strategic factors. The discovery of considerable oil resources is also fueling Israel’s ambitions. In October 2015 the risk assessment expert F. William Engdahl noted in his article entitledGenies and Genocide: Syria, Israel, Russia and much Oil, that “Oil, lots of oil, comes into the play, and Israel is claiming it’s theirs. The only problem is that it isn’t. The oil is in the Golan Heights which Israel illegally took from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War”.

Engdahl also noted the involvement of U.S. American neoconservatives and the Strategic Advisory Board of a Newark, New Jersey-based oil and gas group with the name, Genie Energy. Members of the board include Dick Cheney, James Woolsey, Bill Richardson, Jacob Lord Rothschild, Rupert Murdoch, Larry Summers and Michael Steinhardt.

Israeli weapons in Syria_Feb 2016_SyriaAnd More Israeli Weapons

One of the latest incidents highlighting Israel’s and multinational players’ attempts to annex the Golan Heights as of February 15, 2016, was the seizure of Israeli weapons by Syrian authorities in Sweida, Syria,on Sunday, February 14, 2016. Local authorities in Sweida, Syria, cooperated with local residents to seize a vehicle loaded with weapons and munitions in the western countryside of the province.

A local spokesperson in Sweida governorate informed the press that the vehicle was heading to terrorist organizations operating in the eastern countryside of the neighboring Daraa province. The weapons and munitions that were seized included 7 Israeli-made anti-tank rocket launchers, 62 shells, 128 RPG shells of different kinds, 43 120 mm mortar rounds, 42 82 mm mortar rounds and 100 23 mm machine-gun bullets. On January 20th, the authorities in Sweida foiled an operation to smuggle a large quantity of ammunition for medium-sized and heavy weapons from eastern Daraa to terrorist organizations in the Syrian desert.

CH/L – nsnbc 27.06.2016

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