Druze on the Golan Heights on Saturday took to the streets in protest at US President Donald Trump’s pledge to recognize the Jewish state’s sovereignty there, AFP reports.
Trump on Thursday broke with decades of US Middle East policy when he wrote on Twitter that it was time to accept Israeli sovereignty of the Golan Heights.
Tens of thousands of Syrians fled or were expelled when Israel liberated part of the Golan during the 1967 Six Day War, before subsequently annexing it in 1981.
Some remained, however, and today around 23,000 Druze reside in the Israeli-controlled sector. The vast majority of these Druze see themselves as Syrians and refuse to take Israeli nationality.
On Saturday Druze men, women and children rallied in the town of Majdal Shams, waving Druze and Syrian flags and carrying pictures of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.
Others carried banners in Arabic reading, “The Golan is Syrian” and “We are the ones who decide Golan’s identity”, according to AFP.
Wasef Khatar, a Druze community representative, said Trump was making commitments on “Arab, Syrian land, not Israeli”.
“We reject the decision of the American president Trump because he is talking about something he doesn’t own,” he said in Arabic.
The Syrian government on Friday vowed to recover the Golan Heights in the wake of Trump’s declaration, saying the Golan would remain “Syrian, Arab” and adding that Trump had shown contempt for international law.
Also on Friday, it was reported that US officials are preparing an official document to codify recognition by the United States of Israeli sovereignty of the Golan Heights, and that Trump is likely to sign the official document during his meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Washington this week.
In addition to Syria, Trump’s move was also condemned by others in the Arab world.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said in criticizing the move that “The territorial integrity of states is the most fundamental principle of international law.”
“Attempts by the US to legitimize Israel’s actions against international law will only lead to more violence and pain in the region. Turkey supports Syria’s territorial integrity,” he added.
The Arab League also rejected Trump’s announcement, saying it fully supports Syrian sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat, meanwhile, claimed the move would result in regional “destabilization and bloodshed”.