Arab Druze in occupied Syrian Golan Heights reject Trump backing for 'Israeli sovereignty'

Reuters , Friday 22 Mar 2019

File Photo: Carrying Syrian flags, dozens of Arab Druze who live on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights (Photo: Reuters)

The fertile hillsides of the Israeli-occupied Golan are scattered with villages inhabited by 22,000 Druze, an Arab minority who practice an offshoot of Islam.

Many still have relatives on the Syrian side of the fortified boundary.

In Majdal Shams, older residents remember being part of Syria before Israel captured most of the heights in the 1967 Middle East war, occupying and later annexing it in 1981.

That annexation was not recognized internationally, and although they have lived under Israeli rule for more than half a century and shopfronts bear signs in both Arabic and Hebrew, many Druze still regard themselves as Syrian.

"Trump can make his statements and say he wants to make the Golan part of Israel. But we know this will stay Syrian land," said Sheikh Mahmoud Nazeeh, 70.

Amal Safadi, 54, a librarian, said: "Our blood is Syrian. If you take a blood test for a child, it will read Syrian."

Israel has given Druze residents the option of citizenship, but most rejected it.

In October last year hundreds demonstrated against the holding of Israeli municipal elections on the Golan, blockading the polling station in Majdal Shams and waving Syrian and Druze flags.

Madjal Shams overlooks the divide between Israeli-occupied Golan and that part of the plateau controlled by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The two armies are divided by an “Area of Separation” - often called a demilitarised zone - into which their military forces are not permitted under a 1974 ceasefire arrangement.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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