Syrians in Golan Heights wounded and arrested in clashes with Israeli forces

A man holds up a protest sign during a demonstration by Druze residents of the village of Majdal Shams in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights (AFP)

Middle East Eye  /  December 9, 2020

Syrian Druze have called for a general strike in protest against the constructing of wind turbines to generate electricity which will benefit Israeli settlements.

Ten Syrians in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights were wounded during clashes with military police forces on Wednesday in protest against the construction of wind turbines to generate electricity which will benefit Israeli settlements in the area.

Syrian Druze have called for a general strike and for shops and schools to close. A clash subsequently erupted in an orchard, where ten Syrians were wounded after Israeli forces shot tear gas and rubber-coated bullets.

Israeli military police said that around 300 Syrian Druze protested against the construction and installation of the wind turbines on their land.

Eight were arrested, and ten were evacuated for medical treatment, while four Israeli policemen were injured, Kan news reported. 

Earlier this week, Israeli forces closed the Syrian Druze areas to test the soil and ship digging equipment for the installation of the wind farm. They have barred Syrian Druze access to their land and blocked the roads.

Four Syrian villages were occupied in 1967 during the Middle East war and later annexed by Israel in 1981 in a move that was not recognised internationally.

Almost 22,000 Syrian Druze live in the villages of Majdal Shams, Buqata, Masada, Ein Qiniyye, and a similar number of Israelis live in around 30 settlements and agriculture outposts in the area.

Israel has tried to impose Israeli citizenship on the Syrian Druze but they refused to accept it in 1982.

The wind farm project is part of the 2009 Israeli strategy to increase the county’s dependency on renewable energy to 10 percent by 2020.

In 2015, Israeli company Enlight Renewable Energy obtained licences to build an energy project in three areas in the occupied Golan Heights, which will produce 400 megawatts of electricity annually using wind-driven turbines.

The project includes three wind farms in the north and the centre of the Golan Heights dubbed the Vale of Tears, Valley of Winds and Valley of God. But only the first project, Vale of Tears, has been advanced since 2015.

Valley of Winds is in the process of being constructed north of the Golan Heights on land belonging to residents from four Syrian Druze villages of Majdal Shams, Buqata, Masada, Ein Qiniyye, which will affect about 3,600 dunams (890 acres) of their apple, grapes and cherry orchards. 

The wind farms will limit the expansion of the villages, which are settled on a mountainous slope. Masada and Majdal Shams are also surrounded by closed military zones and minefields, and the residents have limited space to expand for building houses.

The Golan Heights and the Jordan Valley are two areas used by the Israeli military for battlefield scenarios and exercising manoeuvres. 

In March 2019, the administration of US President Donald Trump unilaterally recognised Israel’s hold on the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, a move that drew international criticism. Israeli settlers responded by naming a settlement after him, called Trump Heights.