Syria condemns Israel to build massive settlements in Golan Heights

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Syria’s foreign ministry called Israel’s move to massively build settlements in the annexed territory “dangerous and unprecedented”.

Syria said on Tuesday Israel’s plan to increase the number of settlers living in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights was “dangerous and unprecedented” and only perpetuated its occupation of the territory.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday announced a multimillion-dollar plan intended to double the number of settlers living in territory Israel seized from Syria more than five decades ago.

Nearly 7,300 additional housing units will be built in the strategic plateau, according to a blueprint approved by the Israeli cabinet.

The US recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights in 2019. The rest of the international community considers the strategic occupation illegal.

“Syria strongly condemns the dangerous and unprecedented escalation of the Israeli occupation forces in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights and its persistence in settlement policy and gross and methodological violations that escalate to war crimes levels,” the Syrian foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday.

The statement said the Syrian government remained committed to Syria “being steadfast in their resistance to the Israeli occupation and their rejection of the decision to annex the Golan”.

The state-run SANA news agency reported on Monday that Damascus would seek to use all legally available means to retake the territory.

Syria has long demanded the return of 1,200 square km (460 square miles) of land, which also faces Lebanon and borders Jordan.

Strengthening Israel’s control of the territory would complicate any future efforts to establish peace with Syria.

Bennett made his announcement during a special Cabinet meeting in the Golan Heights. His office said the government would invest about one billion shekels (more than $300 million) to develop the Golan, including the establishment of two new settlements.

Israel captured the Golan Heights in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed the territory.

Bennett said the decade-long war in Syria has made the idea of Israeli control of the territory more acceptable to its international allies.

About 50,000 people live in the Golan Heights – roughly half of them Jewish Israelis and the other half in Druze Arab villages that were once part of Syria. Some Druze oppose Israeli control.

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