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Israel vows to keep Syria's Golan Heights 'forever' Open in fullscreen

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Israel vows to keep Syria's Golan Heights 'forever'

Israeli has illegally occupied the Golan Heights since 1967 [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 April, 2016

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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said that Israel's illegal occupation of the Golan Heights is indefinite and vowed never to withdraw Israeli forces from the strategically vital territory.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netenyahu said that the occupied Golan Heights would remain forever in Israeli hands.

Israel has come under continued international pressure to withdraw from the mountainous Syrian territory which it has occupied illegally for nearly 50 years.

"The Golan Heights will remain in the hands of Israel forever," Netanyahu said during a speech played on public radio. "Israel will never withdraw from the Golan Heights."

The announcement came as Israel held its first ministerial meeting in the occupied territory, which the country annexed from Syria during the 1967 war.

"The time has come for the international community to recognise reality, especially two basic facts," Netanyahu said.

"One, whatever is beyond the border, the boundary itself will not change. Two, after 50 years the time has come for the international community to finally recognise that the Golan Heights will remain under Israel's sovereignty permanently."

Handing back the Golan Heights to Syrian control has been seen as an essential step for Israel to achieve peace with Damascus.

After 50 years the time has come for the international community to finally recognise that the Golan Heights will remain under Israel's sovereignty permanently.
- Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu


The announcement comes as the Syrian war continues, which started when the Syrian regime brutally suppressed pro-democracy protests in 2011.

Since then the country has descended into chaos with the regime heavily bombing civilian areas, leading to as many as 425,000 Syrians dying.

Meanwhile, extremist groups have taken advantage of the bloodshed and now operate in and around Syria's Golan territories.

This includes Syria's al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front and a faction linked to the Islamic State group.

Israel is reportedly concerned by the presence by these jihadi groups and Lebanese Shia Hizballah, which also has a presence in the area.

They have taken part in the war on the side of the Syrian regime, and a number of its commanders have been killed in Israeli missile strikes.

Netanyahu told US Secretary of State John Kerry who recently met the prime minister about Israel's views on the conflict.

"We will not oppose a diplomatic settlement in Syria, on condition that it not come at the expense of the security of the state of Israel."

He said that meant "that at the end of the day, the forces of Iran, Hizballah and [the Islamic State group] will be removed from Syrian soil".

Last week, the prime minister publicly acknowledged for the first time that Israel had attacked dozens of convoys allegedly transporting weapons in Syria destined for Hizballah.

Agencies contributed to this story.
 

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