(AFP/Ahmad Gharabli, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Israeli government is expected to hold a cabinet meeting in the occupied Golan Heights Sunday, in a “symbolic” gesture of Israel’s refusal to turn over the illegally annexed area despite international pressure, Israeli media reported.
Israel’s Channel 2 on Friday reported that in response to an agreement being drafted by world leaders in effort to end the bloody war in Syria -- which calls on Israel to hand back the Golan to Syria -- Israeli officials decided to hold a meeting in the area.
The move will mark the first time an Israeli cabinet meeting will ever be held in the occupied area, allegedly to prove to the international community Israel’s determination not to relinquish control, Channel 2 reported.
Since the Syrian conflict erupted in 2011, the Golan has been tense, with a number of mostly stray rockets and mortar rounds hitting the Israeli side last year, prompting the occasional armed response.
Israel seized 1,200 square kilometers (460 square miles) of the heights in 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community.
Al-Marsad, the Arab Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Syrian Golan, estimates that the around 130,000 Syrians were displaced by Israel from the Golan during the 1967 takeover, a population that has now grown to around 430,000, many of whom live in areas hit by recent violence in Syria.
The Israeli military tightened the northern border of the occupied Golan last summer, reportedly in effort to prevent access to Syria by Druze living in the Golan who said they would cross the border in order to protect their brethren from ongoing violence.