BriefIsraeli army uncovers new Hezbollah cell in Golan

Lester Mason
March 14, 2019

The US State Department has dropped references to the Israeli occupation in its 2018 human rights report on Israel, the Golan Heights, the West Bank and Gaza.

The release of the images comes the same day as the Israeli army revealed that the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has recruited a number of villagers residing in the Syrian Golan Heights in recent months to make preparations and carry out intelligence gathering for terrorist operations on the border with Israel.

Kozak said the "geographic description" in the report does not signal a change in U.S. policy, adding that Washington continues to stress the need for a "negotiated settlement" to the conflict.

"This, by the way, is not a human rights issue, it's a legal status issue", said Michael Kozak of the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

The US State Department insisted the different wording did not mean a change in policy.

The Golan - like the West Bank and Gaza Strip, territories also taken by Israel in the June 1967 conflict - is regarded internationally as occupied under a U.N. Security Council resolution passed later that year.

Reacting to the report, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesperson for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said new "U.S. labels" for Palestinian lands "will not change the fact that this is occupied territory, in accordance with United Nations resolutions and worldwide law".

A masked gunman holds up a Hizbollah flag
A masked gunman holds up a Hizbollah flag Credit Reuters

"Authorities prosecuted Palestinian non-citizens held in Israel under Israeli military law, a practice Israel has applied since the 1967 occupation", the previous report read.

Global law does not recognise Israel's hold on those territories and considers Israel's expanding settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem illegal.

The move came amid intensified efforts by Israel to win US recognition of its claim to sovereignty over the strategic plateau it captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and effectively annexed in 1981, a step not recognized internationally.

Israel and Syria remain technically at war after the 1973 War, though a demilitarised border zone established through an armistice had always been relatively calm until the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

There was no immediate comment from Israeli leaders on the USA terminology change, which stopped short of a formal declaration accepting the territorial claim.

"Israel will continue to do all that's necessary to defend itself", the prime minister added.

The Republican companion bills have seven co-sponsors in the Senate and 23 co-sponsors in the House.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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