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Syrians decry Israel plan to double settlers in occupied Golan Heights

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
In this undated file picture, Syrians participate in a rally in the occupied Golan Heights to protest the unjust and oppressive practices by the Israeli regime to steal their lands and build new settlements there. (Photo via Twitter)

Hundreds of Syrians have denounced an Israeli plan to double the settler population in the Golan Heights, saying they will put up resistance and steadfastness to thwart the Tel Aviv regime’s schemes aimed at displacement of local community and construction of more illegal settlements there.

The protesters said the strategic area has been and will be an integral part of Syrian territories and that locals will frustrate Israeli schemes aimed at changing the demographic characteristics of the territory as they have not allowed the regime to consolidate its hold on the region, Syria’s official news agency SANA reported.

Hayel Masoud, a protester, deplored Israel’s intention to double the number of settlers living in the Golan Heights in the coming years, stating that Israeli authorities seek to Judaize the area and plunder its natural resources.

During a meeting held on Sunday at the Mevo Hama community in the Golan, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's cabinet voted in favor of the plan to double settler population in the region. The plan aims to build 7,300 settler homes in the area over a five-year period.

It calls for one billion Israeli shekels ($317 million) to be spent on settler units, infrastructure and other projects with the goal of attracting roughly 23,000 new Jewish settlers to the area, which Israel captured from Syria more than 50 years ago.

“This is our moment. This is the moment of the Golan Heights,” Bennett told ministers. “After long and static years in terms of the scope of settlement, our goal today is to double settlement in the Golan Heights.”

During the cabinet meeting, the right-wing Israeli prime minister announced two new neighborhoods in the town of Katzrin, as well as two new communities to be named Asif and Matar, each with about 2,000 settler units.

Bennett had announced the plan in October, saying that the ultimate goal was to double and eventually quadruple the Israeli settler population in the Golan Heights, from almost 27,000 to 50,000, and then increase it to 100,000 settlers in the coming years.

“The Golan Heights is Israeli, full stop,” he said at the time.

Bennett claimed that the Joe Biden administration had adopted former US president Donald Trump’s recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli.

Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria in the closing stages of its 1967 Six-Day War on Arab countries, which also saw the regime occupy the Palestinian territories of the West Bank, East al-Quds, and the Gaza Strip.

Tel Aviv unilaterally annexed the Golan Heights in 1981 in a move not recognized by the international community.

Syria has repeatedly reaffirmed its sovereignty over the Golan Heights, saying the territory must be completely restored to its control.

In March 2019, Trump signed a decree recognizing Israeli “sovereignty” over the occupied Golan during a meeting with then Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington.

Almost 22,000 Syrian Druze live in the Golan Heights and are facing numerous Israeli settlement projects, including building wind turbines on their farming lands.

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