The neutrality of this article is disputed.

The Golan Heights is a plateau on the border of Israel, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. It is one of the territories captured by Israel during the Six-Day War. The Golan Heights are still claimed by Syria.

Geographically, Golan is bordered on the west by a rock escarpment that drops 1700 feet to the Sea of Galilee, and the Jordan River, on the south by the Yarmouk River, on the north by the international border with Lebanon, on the east by a largely flat plain. The Golan is usually divided into three regions: northern (between Nahals Sa'ar and Gilabon), central (between Nahals Gilabon and Dilayot), and southern (between Nahal Dilayot and the Yarmouk Valley).

               Sites in Blue are Israeli settlement communities.
               Sites in Black are Syrian communities.

Table of contents
1 Current status
2 Ancient History
3 External links

Current status

The Heights were controlled by the Israeli army from 1967 until 1981 when the Knesset annexed the land with The Golan Heights Law. This annexation has not been internationally recognized, and the Golan is generally considered occupied territory. The 1981 law awarded Israeli citizenship to the Syrian citizens who remained in the area after the 1967 war.

A UN force - UNDOF (Disengagement Observer Force) was established in 1974 to supervise the implementation of the agreement and maintain the ceasefire with an area of separation.

The Syrian and Israeli governments are still contesting the ownership of the Heights but have not used overt military force since 1974. The great strategic value of the Heights both militarily and as a source of water means that a deal is uncertain.

Ancient History

Like a number of other regions, this area has been contested for thousands of years. During the 3rd Millennium BCE the Ammorites dominated and inhabited the Golan until the 2nd Millennium when they were substituted by the Arameans. Later known as Bashan, the area was contested between Israel (the northern of the two Jewish kingdoms extant at that time) and the Aramean kingdom since the 800s BCE. King Ahab of Israel (reigned 874-852 BCE) defeated Ben-Hadad I in the southern Golan.

In the 700s BCE the Assyrians gained control of the area, but were later replaced by the Babylonian and the Persian Empire. In the 5th century BCE, the region was settled by returning Jewish exiles from Babylon (modern Iraq).

In the 4th century BCE, the area came under the control of Alexander the Great and remained under Hellenestic rule, until captured by the Romans. In the mid 2nd century BCE, Judah Maccabee aided the local Jewish communities when they came under attack, although the area itself was not in Jewish hands.

The area was named Golan following the Roman occupation - The Greeks referred to the area as "Gaulanitis", the term used by the Romans, which led to the word "Golan". After the partioning of the Roman Empire in 391 AD, the Golan Heights became part of the Byzantine Empire. In 636, the area came under Arab control and quickly under the control of the Caliph in Baghdad. In the 15th and 16th C, Druze began to settle the northern Golan and the slopes of Mount Hermon. Sudanese, Algerians, Turkomans and Samarian Arabs also settled on the Heights. In the 16th centrury, the Ottoman Turks came in control of the area, and remained so until the end of World War I.

In the 1880s, a Jewish community called Ramataniya was started; it failed within a year.

History since World War I

According to the Franco-British Boundary Agreement of December 1920, most of the Golan Heights was ceded to French control. However, due to the actual presence of the British and delay in demarcating the border, the transfer did not occur until 1923 (the year after the British Mandate of Palestine came into being). In accordance with the same agreement, a nearby parcel of land that included the ancient site of Dan was transferred from Syria to Palestine early in 1924. The Golan Heights thus became part of the French Mandate of Syria and, when that mandate ended in 1944, part of Syria.

After the 1948-49 Arab-Israeli War, the Syrians fortified on the Heights, from which they shelled civilian targets in Israel and launched other attacks for the next eighteen years. 140 Israelis were killed and many more were injured in these attacks from 1949 to 1967. Although the Mixed Armistice Commission (which oversaw the implementation of the Israel-Syria Armistice Agreement) reported violations of the agreement by both sides, none of them involved Israeli attacks on civilian Syrian targets.

After the 1948-49 Arab-Israeli War, the Golan Heights were partly demilitarized by the Israel-Syria Armistice Agreement. Over the following years the Mixed Armistice Commission reported many violations by each side.

During the Six-Day War (1967), the IDF captured the Golan Heights on 9-10 June. The area which came under Israeli control as a result of the war is two geologically distinct areas: the Golan Heights proper (1,070 km2) and the slopes of the Mt. Hermon range (100 km2).

Before the Six-Day War the strategic heights of the Golan, which are approximately 3000 ft. above pre-1967 Israel, were used to frequently bombard civilian Israeli farming communities far below them, although Moshe Dayan (Israeli Defense Minister during the 1967 war) would later state that it was most often the result of Israeli provocations in the demilitarized zone.

Most of the Golans' inhabitants, mainly Syrian Arabs, fled during the Six-Day War. For various political reasons, they have not been allowed to return. This has led to the splitting of many families.

Israel began settling the Golan almost immediately following the war. Kibbutz Merom Golan was founded in July 1967. By 1970 there were 12 Jewish communities on the Golan and by 2000 there were 33 settlements holding around 14,000 people. During the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Syrian forces overran much of the southern parts Golan, before being pushed back by a Israeli counterattack. Israel and Syria signed a ceasefire agreement in 1974 that left the Heights in Israeli hands with a demilitarized zone in Syrian civil, but not military control.

See also: UN Security Council Resolution 242, Six Day War, Yom Kippur War, Israeli settlement

External links