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UN General Assembly adopts fresh resolution on Israel’s withdrawal from Golan Heights

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Picture: Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 2.5 / Taken on December 31, 2003 – Overview of UN zone and Syrian controlled territory from the Golan Heights. Israel occupied the Syrian Golan Heights in the 1967 war and has refused to withdraw despite multiple UN resolutions. Ninety-one countries voted in favour of the latest UNGA resolution while only eight countries, including the US and UK voted against it.

By Peoples Dispatch

The United Nations General Assembly adopted a fresh resolution on Tuesday, November 28, asking Israel to withdraw from the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. The resolution said that Israel’s continued occupation of the Syrian territory “constitutes a stumbling block in the way of achieving a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the region”.

A total of 91 countries voted in favour of the resolution drafted jointly by some of the Arab countries, including the UAE and Syria, along with Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea. Sixty-one countries abstained from voting, TASS reported.

Countries such as China, Russia, Brazil, and India voted in favour of the resolution. Only eight countries, including the US and the UK, voted against the resolution.

The resolution reiterated that Israel should withdraw “from all the occupied Syrian Golan to the line of June 4, 1967, in implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions”. It asked Israel to initiate talks to resolve the territorial disputes with Syria and Lebanon and instructed the UN Secretary General to report on the progress on the provisions of the resolution during the seventy-ninth session of the UN General Assembly.

The Golan Heights is Syrian territory occupied by Israel during the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war. In the same war, Israel also occupied the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. Israel continues to occupy all the territories it captured in 1967 except the Egyptian Sinai from which it withdrew in 1979 after the Camp David accords.

Israel illegally annexed the territory in 1981 despite the UN Security Council Resolution 242 adopted in 1967 asking it to withdraw from all territories occupied during the war. The UN Security Council also adopted Resolution 497 in December 1981 nullifying the Israeli annexation of the Syrian Golan. The resolution had stated that all provisions of the fourth Geneva convention were applicable on the territory which means Israel was not permitted to create any permanent structures there and had the responsibility to protect civilians.

Most of the Syrian population and Palestinian refugees from 1948 Nakba were forced out of the territory following Israel’s takeover. However, there are around 23,000 Syrians, mostly from the Druze community, in the four remaining villages in the occupied Golan against a total illegal settler population of over 25,000.

The Syrian people have continued to resist the Israeli occupation and its plans of expansion of illegal settlements and constructions in the Golan.

Syria has repeatedly demanded that the UN take up the occupation of its territory by the Israelis and implement its resolutions.

Both the US and the UK have voted in favour or abstained on most of the resolutions since 1967 that identify Israel as an occupying power and demand the end of its occupation. However, the US changed its stance on the issue first in 2018 when it became the second country after Israel to vote against the resolution demanding a withdrawal.

The Donald Trump administration in March 2019 recognised Israeli sovereignty over the Golan in complete violation of international laws and despite strong protests by Syria and other countries in the region.

In return, the Israeli government announced in June 2020 that it would name one of the illegal settlements it had built in the occupied Golan as Trump Heights.

This article was first published on Peoples Dispatch