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Israel approves 'Trump settlement' in occupied Golan Heights

Israel occupied the Golan Heights in Syria in the 1967 Mideast war [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 June, 2020

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Israeli official says 'Trump Heights' in the occupied Golan Heights will house 300 Jewish families.
Israel's cabinet has approved plans to build a a new settlement in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights named after US President Donald Trump, an Israeli minister announced on Sunday.

The settlements ministry will start preparations for Ramat Trump - Hebrew for "Trump Heights" - to house 300 Israeli families, Tzipi Hotovely wrote on Facebook. 

Israel occupied the Golan Heights in Syria in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it in 1981. The international community considers the move, and Israeli settlements in the territory, illegal under international law.

But Trump signed an executive order recognising the strategic mountainous plateau as Israeli territory in March 2019.

The move came during a visit to Washington by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just weeks before Israeli elections. The decision, just one of several diplomatic moves benefiting Israel, was widely applauded there.

The plan will involve earmarking 8 million shekels ($2.3 million) for developing the settlement, according to Israeli media.

Sunday's announcement coincided with Trump's birthday, although it was unclear if it was connected.

Read also: 'No freeze on settlements': Netanyahu adamant on West Bank annexation without US conditions

Last June, Netanyahu convened his cabinet in the small hamlet of Qela for a vote on rebranding the settlement as a gesture of appreciation for Trump's recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

The small town of Qela is home to under 300 people. Its original neighbourhood of Bruchim, which will be rebranded as Trump Heights, is home to less than a dozen. 

At a Cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu said that Israel would "begin practical steps in establishing the community of Ramat Trump on the Golan Heights, Israel’s sovereignty over which was recognized by President Trump".

Israel has built dozens of settlements in the Golan over the years, with an estimated 26,000 Jewish settlers living there as of 2019. Roughly the same number of Syrians live there, most of them members of the Druze sect of Shia Islam.

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