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The Golan Heights conflict between Syria and Israel

The Golan Heights conflict between Syria and Israel

In 1967 the Six-Day War took place between Syria, Egypt, Jordan against Israel, which was attacked on the 5th of June 1967. Israel had the best Air Force in the area and could reject successfully the enemy military divisions that intended to penetrate in Israeli territory, restraining the egyptians, jordanians and syrians, and so maintaining Israel territorial integrity and annexing, against International Law, The Sinai, Jerusalem, The West Bank and The Golan Heights. 

What are the Golan Heights?

In the frontier between Israel and Syria there can be found this geographical enclave made up by a serie of cordilleras and sierras from which all the northern Israeli platform can be controlled. Southern Israel is protected by the Negev desert and the stony Sinai desert. In the east, it is protected by the Dead Sea and the outer face of the Dead Sea canyon, which is the lowers point in the Earth, 300 metres under the sea level. Such geographical feature prevents an effective invation by earth with infantry and taks, that is why the real danger for Israel is in the North, in the israeli frontier with Syria and Lebanon. This area is of vital importance for Syria, for the control of the Golan Heights otorgated a great strategic superiority. That is why Damascus gathered all its power in this area, for example: engineer works, trenches, bunkers, artillery weapons and militar bases that were in a state of constant alert. When the famous Mossad agent Eli Cohen infiltrated Syria, the mission he had was to deliver all the available information about the distribution of syrian militar point in that zone. 

Eli Cohen was discovered, arrested and hanged in Damascus, but just before that happened he achieved to send all the verified and exact information about the syrian militar enclaves and their strategy to face any eventual conflict with Israel and that is why the Israelis could desmantle without any problem the syrian attack and destroy the syrian infrastructure in all the region, leaving it unprotected and at the mercy of an invasion. 

At the end of the war, that lasted scarcely six days, Israel denied to give back the Golan Heights because Tel Aviv tried to press Damascus to recognize the State of Israel, as it would do to Egypt in return for The Sinai, but also demanded Eli Cohen´s body. For Israel the Golan was an ace up the sleeve to negotiate with Syria, a negotiation that never occurred officially, sealing off the conflict for decades and that is still to be solved, at the same time the Golan Heights meant an advantage in multiple spheres:

- It changed the balance of power in the region by falling in control of Israel. The area was completely militarized, for in that way Tel Aviv´s strategic advantage over Damascus was absolute, for Syria would have to penetrate Israeli territory to make a new war and overcoming a geographic obstacle that was very difficult to reconquer and to secure. Likewise, the Golan Heights would be easy to be defended by Israel, who would penetrate without problem syrian territory and easily reach Damascus at the same thime that it would protect the region of Galilea, that belongs to Israel. Also, it would later be proved that the Golan Heights is an strategic point to keep under control the Syrian-Lebanese frontier and all Southern Lebanon. 

- Geostrategic importance: Israel was matched with it in the negotiations of peace with Syria, which did not happen. 

-Civil and industrial: In the Golan Heights there are some of the biggest fresh water reserves in the Middle East, and so its control is prioritary, so it has been of use for Israel to build scorings for residential areas, heavy industry and agriculture. 15 % of the water consumed in Israel comes from the Golan Heights. The area is an important economical centre for the Israeli wine industry, in this area which was taken away from Syria. 


The area has been totally annexed by Israel, who occupies it in an administrative way. The Golan Heights belong to the Northern District, and is a subdistrict of it. It is military ocuppied due to the militar importance it possess, and so the israeli militar presence is something normal. At the same time, it has been colonized, as the West Bank, by the State of Israel by means of the Kibutz and the Moshav, where israeli citizens settle. 

According to the Central Office of Statictis of Israel in the Golan Heights inhabit: 

-21.400 Arabic Syrians without israeli citizenship, although they may choose it, divided in:
-19.300 Druses
-2.100 Muslims

-19.000 Israeli jews who live in more than 30 colonial settlements.

The total amounts of refugees or expulsed during and after the Six-Day War was among between 80.000 and 90.000 Syrian who do not have the right to come back to their homes. 

International Law

The International Law forbids strictly the annexation of a territory because of  war reasons, that is to say, the violent acquisition of a foreign territory by a State detrimental to another one, because it breaks Public International Law, the number 4 of the article 20 of the United Nations Charter, which implies a change in the territory of a state, in this case Syrian, against the prohibition of the use of force, so this annexation is contrary to the territorial integrity of the states. 

Likewise, the israeli action does not only goes against International Law, but also International Custom, for it violates the Stimson doctrine, which is based in the legal principle ex injuria jur non oritur (unfair actions can not create law), and so the annexation of a territory, in this case, the Golan Heights, as it goes against International Law, it can not be validated or got off by the recognition of third countries on the israeli ambition, for it is an illegal conduct. 

The israeli strategy is precisely another one, knowing that his conduct is illegal and it violates Public International Law, it intends to displace the autochthonous inhabitants and substitute them for colonists of israli citizenship and jewish religion, as it happens in the West Bank, so that its effective possession, based in political and administrative control for a long period of time in that land is imposed and these territories are recognized by the international community as a israeli territorial reality, which goes agains the International Law and the ius cogens. (Foto: Israel Defense Forces)

UN Ressolutions against Israel for 1967 annexations

- 242 Resolution of 22 November 1967
- 446 Resolution of 22 March 1979
- 497 Resolution of 17 December 1981 

Translated by: Jesús Ortiz

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