Golan Heights sees new turmoil between Syria, Israel
The Israeli military says it has attacked dozens of Iranian targets in neighboring Syria in response to an Iranian rocket barrage on Israeli positions in the long-contested Golan Heights.
Here are some facts about the area and why it matters today:
- The Golan Heights is a plateau at the southwestern corner of Syria overlooking the Sea of Galilee and northern Israel, roughly 40 miles (65 kilometers) long and 15 miles (25 kilometers) wide. Militarily, it is strategic high ground, with broad views of both Israel and Syria below.
- Syria shelled northern Israel from the Golan Heights between 1948 and 1967. Israel captured the territory in the 1967 Mideast War and annexed it in 1981, but the world still considers it occupied.
- In 1974, Israel and Syria agreed to a cease-fire and a disengagement and U.N. peacekeepers deployed to the area. After the Syrian civil war, the peacekeepers left the area for several months after dozens of them were taken hostages by Syrian rebels. In 2016, the peacekeeping force returned with 1,100 troops currently deployed in the area.
- Israel and Syria held peace talks starting in 1991 and even appeared close to a deal in 2000. Disagreement over the fate of the Golan Heights foiled the talks.
- Syria fought in three wars against Israel in 1948, 1967 and 1973, and battled Israel when it invaded Lebanon in 1982. Israel also acknowledged this year it carried out a 2007 airstrike in eastern Syria targeting an unfinished nuclear reactor built by North Korea. Syria and Israel have never made peace.
- During Syria’s civil war, Israel has carried out more than 100 airstrikes in Syria, targeting suspected weapons shipments by Iran to the Lebanese Hezbollah group. As the war now looks to be winding down, Israel has stepped up its tempo of strikes against Iran, viewing any permanent Iranian military presence in Syria as a threat.
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