A view of the Golan Heights
JERUSALEM – A Syrian militant group threatened over the weekend to seize the strategic Golan Heights by force if a peace agreement involving the strategic plateau is not reached with Israel.
Israel’s Army Radio reported a group calling itself the Syrian Committee for the Liberation of the Golan on Saturday said it would move to capture the Golan, adding Israel has not shown willingness to achieve peace or to return what they called “Syrian land.”
WND first broke the story in September 2006 of the formation of the Committee for the Liberation of the Golan, quoting Syrian officials stating the group was formed to launch “resistance” against Israeli troop positions and Jewish communities in the Golan Heights.
WND also conducted an in-person interview with a top leader of the Committee.
One month later, a man identified as the leader of the Committee gave an interview to state-run Iranian television.
Amos Yadlin, head of the Israel Defense Forces’ intelligence branch, told the Knesset in October 2006 that Syria was indeed forming a Hezbollah-like group.
The latest threats from the Committee were made in comments over the weekend at the inauguration ceremony attended by Syrian President Bashar Assad for a new communications center in the town of Quneitra, which runs alongside the Syrian border with Israel.
In July 2007, Syria for the first time in 30 years opened a strategic border road at Quneitra to civilian traffic in a move some Israeli security officials worry could help facilitate guerrilla attacks against Golani Jewish communities. The road is visible from the Israeli side of the border.
Israel has not been standing idle at recent Syrian rhetoric and military moves.
A WND trip to the Israeli-Syrian border three weeks ago found Israeli tanks stationed alongside the Syrian border as well as a series of massive trenches dug in recent months on the Israeli side.
Also, according to information obtained by WND, Israeli security forces previously arrested two Syrian nationals living in the Golan under suspicion they worked for the Committee for the Liberation of the Golan. Those nationals were sentences in a closed military court several months ago to 3 years in prison. The complete details of the case – fully known to WND – are being held back by Israel’s military censor.
The Jewish Golan
News media accounts routinely billed the Golan as “undisputed Syrian territory” until Israel “captured the region” in 1967. In actuality, the Golan has been out of Damascus’ control for far longer than the 19 years it was within its rule, from 1948 to 1967.
Even when Syria shortly held the Golan, some of it was stolen from Jews. Tens of thousands of acres of farmland on the Golan were purchased by Jews as far back as the late 19th century. The Turks of the Ottoman Empire kicked out some Jews around the turn of the century.
But some of the Golan was still farmed by Jews until 1947, when Syria first became an independent state. Just before that, the territory was transferred back and forth between France, Great Britain and even Turkey, before it became a part of the French Mandate of Syria.
When the French Mandate ended in 1944, the Golan Heights became part of the newly independent state of Syria, which quickly seized land that was being worked by the Palestine Colonization Association and the Jewish Colonization Association. A year later, in 1948, Syria, along with other Arab countries, used the Golan to attack Israel in a war to destroy the newly formed Jewish state.
The Golan, steeped in Jewish history, is connected to the Torah and to the periods of the First and Second Jewish Temples. The Golan Heights was referred to in the Torah as “Bashan”; the word “Golan” apparently derived from the biblical city of “Golan in Bashan.”
The book of Joshua relates how the Golan was assigned to the tribe of Manasseh. Later, during the time of the First Temple, King Solomon appointed three ministers in the region, and the area became contested between the northern Jewish kingdom of Israel and the Aramean kingdom based in Damascus.
The book of Kings relates how King Ahab of Israel defeated Ben-Hadad I of Damascus near the present-day site of Kibbutz Afik in the southern Golan, and the prophet Elisha foretold that King Jehoash of Israel would defeat Ben-Hadad III of Damascus, also near Kibbutz Afik.
The online Jewish Virtual Library has an account of how in the late 6th and 5th centuries B.C., the Golan was settled by Jewish exiles returning from Babylonia, or modern day Iraq. In the mid-2nd century B.C., Judah Maccabee’s grandnephew, the Hasmonean King Alexander Jannai, added the Golan Heights to his kingdom.
The Golan hosted some of the most important houses of Torah study in the years following the Second Temple’s destruction and subsequent Jewish exile; some of Judaism’s most revered ancient rabbis are buried in the territory. The remains of some 25 synagogues from the period between the Jewish revolt and the Islamic conquest in 636 have been excavated. The Golan is also dotted with ancient Jewish villages.