Saturday, September 13, 2008

Golan Heights

Political map 2 of the Sea of Galilee (Golan Heights) region todayThe Golan Heights is a strategic plateau and mountainous region at the southern end of the Anti-Lebanon Mountains. The geographic area lies within, or borders, the countries of Israel, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. The Golan plateau encompasses about 1,800 square kilometres (690 sq mi); it is situated south of the mountains and extends to the east. Since 1967, the term generally refers to a somewhat different 1,200 square kilometres (460 sq mi) area that includes the western portion of the plateau, a small portion of the Jordan River Valley in the northwest, and higher, mountainous areas in the north, which descend to the southeast from Mount Hermon. The Golan Heights are of great strategic importance in the region. The Golan Heights were undisputed Syrian territory until Israel captured the region on 9-10 June 1967 during the Six-Day War. The area has remained under Israeli occupation since then. The territory was successfully defended by Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, though a portion was later returned to Syria. In 1981 the area was unilaterally annexed by Israel, a move condemned internationally. The Golan Heights remain disputed, with an ongoing Syrian claim for the land to be returned.

The name "Golan" refers to both Biblical and historical names for the southern portion of the area. (See Etymology, below). In contemporary usage, the “Golan Heights” refers to the territory captured by Israel from Syria.

Syria maintains that the Golan Heights are within the Quneitra Governorate. Israeli sources and the U.S. Committee for Refugees reported that the local population fled, whereas the Syrian government indicated that a large proportion of it was expelled. Starting in the 1970s, new Jewish settlements were established in the captured area. Israel asserts its right to retain the area under the text of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, which calls for "safe and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force".


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