Hundreds of Druze demonstrators have gathered in the Golan Heights to protest against US President Donald Trump’s widely-condemned assertion that Washington should recognize the Israeli-occupied part of the Syrian heights as Israeli territory.
The protest rallies were held in Majdal Shams Town in the Israeli-occupied part of the Golan Heights as well as in Quneitra, on the Syrian-controlled side of the territory, on Saturday, The Times of Israel reported on Sunday.
The demonstrators in Majdal Shams reaffirmed Syrian sovereignty over the Israeli-occupied part of the territory by waving Syrian flags and holding up pictures of President Bashar al-Assad.
Trump tweeted on Thursday that it was “time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” upending decades of US policy on the matter. But it was unclear whether that assertion entailed any actual measures by the US government to recognize Israeli “sovereignty” over the occupied heights. Some reports said US officials involved in Middle East policy making had not been consulted on the matter by Trump.
After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 21, 2019
The highlands have been under Israeli occupation since 1967.
The report by The Times of Israel said that people from other Druze villages took part in the demonstration in Majdal Shams and that footage of the demonstration was broadcast by Syrian state television.
“We reject the decision of the American president, Trump, because he is talking about something he doesn’t own,” a Druze community representative named Wasef Khatar said.
Israeli military bracing for rallies
Ahead of the rallies, the Israeli military said it was preparing for protests on both sides of the Golan Heights. Reports said Tel Aviv had deployed forces, including snipers, to the Golan Heights in order to crack down on protests.
Trump’s assertion has been met with global condemnation, including by the Arab League.
EU ‘not to follow suit’
The European Union (EU), too, stressed on Friday that it would not change its position on the Golan Heights and that it would continue to consider the status of the territory as occupied.
“The European Union, in accordance with international law, does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the territories it [has] occupied since July 1967, including the Golan Heights, and does not consider them as part of Israeli territory,” Maya Kosyanchich, a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, said in a statement.
European Council President Donald Tusk expressed the same position.
“The EU’s position is well-known and has not changed,” Tusk told a news conference on Friday when asked to comment on Trump’s remarks.
Syria has pledged to liberate the region.