On This Day

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A view of Syria from an Israeli-controlled section of the Golan Heights.

On This Day: Israel Annexes Golan Heights

December 14, 2011 05:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
On Dec. 14, 1981, Israel annexed the Golan Heights, which it had seized from Syria following the 1967 Six-Day War.

The Golan Heights

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The Golan Heights is a strategically important plateau from which large areas of land on both the Israeli and Syrian sides can be viewed. When it was under Syrian control, it was used to launch shell attacks on the agriculturally rich Hula Valley in Israel.

Israel had captured much of the Golan Heights—as well as the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt and the West Bank from Jordan—after it defeated Egypt, Syria and Jordan in the Six-Day War of June 1967. Most Syrians fled from the heights and Israeli citizens began settling in the area, which was placed under military control.

Israel intended to use the heights as leverage in peace negotiations, though Syria was not open to a settlement. Syria attempted to reclaim the heights in 1973 when it launched a surprise attack as part of the Yom Kippur War, but Israeli forces managed to drive back the advancing forces and capture more territory in the heights.

The Golan Heights remains under Israel’s control today. It is at the center of peace negotiations between the two countries. In 1999-2000, Israel offered to withdraw from almost the entirety of the heights, allowing it to keep control of the land around the Sea of Galilee, its primary source for fresh water. Syria has insisted that it will only accept a full withdrawal to pre-1967 borders.
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