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Syria condemns Israeli plans to increase settlements

SYRIA has condemned Israeli plans to “double and quadruple” its settlements in the occupied Golan Heights that Tel Aviv announced on Monday.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that a special cabinet meeting would discuss the development plans next month.

Two settlements will be built in the Golan Heights, he said, increasing the settler population from 27,000 to 50,000 and eventually to 100,000.

“The Golan Heights is Israeli, full stop,” Mr Bennett claimed.

But Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad hit back, condemning the plans of the Israeli occupiers.

“The Golan has been and will remain for Syria and, sooner or later, it will return to the embrace of its homeland,” he said.

Hundreds of members of the territory’s Druze community demonstrated against the Israeli plans on Monday, pledging their allegiance to Damascus.

“We deny these plans that Israel intends to establish on lands that have belonged to us for hundreds of years and that our ancestors gave their lives to preserve,” the protesters said.

They insist that Israeli construction projects, including the development of wind turbines, on their farmland are part of attempts to forcibly displace them and change the region’s demography.

Israel seized the Golan Heights during the 1967 six day war,  in which it also occupied the Palestinian-populated West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

Tel Aviv formally annexed the Syrian territory in 1981, though this was not recognised by the international community.

In 2019, then US president Donald Trump made his country the first to recognise the Golan Heights in as part of Israel, a step widely seen as a bid to boost the re-election campaign of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli PM at the time.

The year before, Israel held the first local elections in the occupied territory since the 1967 land grab, but they were largely boycotted by the Arabic-speaking community, which sees itself as Syrian.

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