UNSG's new report on UNDOF mentions Golan minefields + Palestinian protests

The UN Secretary-General’s new report raises more questions than answers about two protests that turned deadly in the Golan Heights in the past month in which people who the UN report identified as “civilians”, and “largely young unarmed Palestinians” overran Syrian, UN, and Israeli lines — in an attempt to enter an area under Israeli control.

The UN said it still did not know the exact casualty toll. The report said that the two demonstrations “resulted in an unconfirmed number of civilian casualties and put the long-held ceasefire in jeopardy”.

The statement about the Israeli-Syrian ceasefire being in jeopardy is a surprise: there are no reports of any Syrian responses to the Israeli firing on the demonstrators.

The report was prepared, as it usually is, by the UNSG in connection with the imminent renewal of the mandate of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights later this month.   The UN has decided to ask for a regular six-month renewal, as has happened since 1974, and a threat to the cease-fire would be a good justification for renewal.

The report does not say that Syrian forces were in any way responsible for the organizing the protests, though it does note several times that the Syrian forces were present.

On May 15, it said, “A total of 44 civilian casualties, including four fatalities from IDF fire, were reported, but UNDOF has not been able to confirm these numbers”. In the second demonstration, it said, “Although UNDOF could not confirm the number of casualties during the 5 June events, up to 23 persons have been reported killed and many more wounded”.

The report said that it was still investigating an “incident” in which two civilians “entered Majdal Chams and demonstrated in the town centre” during the May 15 protest — and were detained by the IDF. They were returned two days later, on 17 May, “by the IDF through UNDOF and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to the Syrian authorities”. According to the UN report, “UNDOF is investigating the incident and both parties have agreed in principle to cooperate with UNDOF’s investigation”.

It also said it was still investigating an apparent attack by protestors, during the June 5 protest, on an UNDOF position. Stones were thrown at a UNDOF commander trying to calm the situation, several protesters climbed the walls and entered the UNDOF facility and some UNDOF military police were evacuated for their own protection.

Continue reading UNSG's new report on UNDOF mentions Golan minefields + Palestinian protests

AFP: UN report mentions unmarked minefield, denial of access to UN observer teams, in Golan

AFP has written a story from UNHQ/NY, based on an as-yet-unpublished UN report, that apparently says that Palestinian and Syrian demonstrators coming from Syria crossed an “unmarked minefield” in the Golan Heights on May 15 — the day that Israeli forces were surprised by the breach.

From the AFP story, published here, it is not clear if this referred to a field of Israeli, or Syrian, mines.

The unpublished UN report that AFP obtained is apparently linked to forthcoming UN Security Council consideration of periodic renewal, later this month, of the UN peacekeeping mandate on the Golan Heights, known as UNDOF [UN Disengagement Observer Forces]. This UNDOF report, published as a report of the UNSG, was due to be published on 10 June…

The AFP story, published yesterday [Wednesday June 15] says that “On May 15, about 4,000 mainly Palestinian demonstrators gathered on the Golan Heights on the anniversary of Israel’s 1948 creation. The UN report said about 300 moved toward the Israeli side ‘and despite the presence of the Syrian police, crossed the ceasefire line, through an unmarked minefield‘ and broke through an Israeli security fence. Israeli forces at first fired tear gas, then warning shots and then used ‘direct fire’, according to the UN, which said four dead and 41 wounded were reported. On June 5, Palestinians again gathered at two places on the Golan Heights ceasefire line. ‘Despite the presence of Syrian security forces, protesters attempted to breach the ceasefire line in both locations’, the UN said. Israeli forces again used tear gas and then live fire to deter the demonstrators. The UN said up to 23 people were reported killed and many more wounded … The UN report said ‘anti-government demonstrations in Syria spread to several villages’ on the Syrian side of the ceasefire line. UN observer teams have been denied access to six villages ‘ostensibly for reasons of safety and security of the military observers’, the report said”. This AFP story is published here.

This confirms the serious — and still unanswered — questions that have been raised in the past month:
(1) There is a question of proper notification, both to Syrian authorities and to UN peacekeeping missions working in the Golan.
(2) There is also an unanswered question about whether or not the minefields were properly marked [particularly any newly-laid minefields], in order to provide adequate warning to the demonstrators themselves.
(3) The breach of the Syrian and Israeli lines by Palestinian and Syrian protesters in demonstrations both on June 5 and also on May 15 has raised questions about how the UN peacekeeping forces who operate there are working.

The AFP story did seem to show UN confirmation that Syrian authorities didn’t do much but stand by and watch during May15 +June5 protests — though there was no real dispute on that point. The UN report apparently does not say that Syrian authorities actually sponsored, or even encouraged, the demonstrations. [It would be interesting to see anybody argue that the Syrian Army should actually have stopped the protesters from protesting — though the Lebanese Army did shoot at demonstrators on May 15.]

On Monday 6 June, a day after the latest demonstrations, the Israeli media published reports that newly-laid IDF minefields were among the preparations undertaken since the Nakba Day protests on May15 (when Palestinians + Syrians surprised the IDF by crossing the Golan on foot and entering Majdal Shams etc.) These newly-laid IDF minefields were reportedly planted expressly to prevent a second breach of the lines, in anticipation of the June 5 demonstrations marking the start of the June 1967 war (and the start of the Israeli occupation). An unclear number of people, said to be unarmed, were killed by unclear causes, apparently including minefield explosions.

UNDOF’s Croatian Battalion is located in the middle of the UN Zone that separates Israeli and Syrian lines near Majdal Shams.
The current UNDOF deployment map is published here.

The Israeli and Syrian lines are situated where agreed by a 1974 Agreement on the Disengagement of Israeli and Syrian forces. It can’t be found on the UN website, but it is on the website of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, here. It shows the UN zone in the middle of the demarcated area:

Map of Israeli-Syrian Disengagement Agreement - 1974
Israeli-Syrian Disengagement Agreement Map - 1974

The story has not yet been developed.

It is not clear where the old minefields are, or whether they are all clearly marked. And it’s absolutely not clear where any newly-laid minefields are. But, all indications are that the newly-laid minefields were unmarked. (Except by two rows of barbed wire, according to an Israeli friend.)

One report, whose link I’ve unfortunately misplaced, did mention in passing that the IDF lines were overrun on May15 when Israeli troops stopped in their tracks, stunned to see the Palestinian demonstrators crossing minefields [marked, or unmarked?]

The first indications of injuries and deaths from mine explosions came from accounts given to the Israeli media by the IDF Northern Command on June 5, and then by IDF spokespersons themselves. The IDF aid that some protesters supposedly threw Molotov cocktails onto one minefield, apparently near Quneitra, thereby setting off one or more explosions. At least one IDF spokeswoman insisted, in an interview with one of my colleagues, that this peculiar tragedy involved minefields left over from the 1967 war.

UPDATE: However, the as-yet-unpublished UN report blame the fire not on Molotov cocktails supposedly thrown by demonstrators, but rather on the tear gas (or smoke?) canisters fired at the demonstrators by Israeli forces. Thanks to a tip from NYC-based journalist Alex B. Kane, who published his own account on Mondoweiss, there, we discovered a DPA [German Press Agency] story published by Haaretz on Tuesday evening, here reports that “A UN report on the Naksa day events said the IDF used tear gas, smoke grenades and live fire to prevent the demonstrators from crossing the ceasefire line. It stated: ‘Several anti-tank mines exploded due to a brush fire apparently started by tear gas or smoke grenade canisters near UNDOF facilities at Charlie Gate [near Quneitra?], resulting in casualties among protesters’. The brush fire was put out by Syrian and Israeli fire squads, and UNDOF, the report read”.

Another link in Alex Kane’s report for Mondoweiss, a Haaretz report published on June 6, here, “[IDF] Soldiers fired ‘with precision’ at the bottom half of the bodies of the protesters, the army said”. Then, an IDF spokeswoman said that this was further proof that the death toll figures had been exaggerated: We shot them in the feet, she said, and then the wounded were carried away on stretchers, pretending that they were dead…

So, to satisfy the IDF standards of proof that they were only “shot in the feet”, those injured should have walked back across the lines…?

UN Human Rights Commissioner is only UN official to deal with reports that minefields took toll on Golan protesters

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay [of India] is the only UN official to deal with reports that minefields had taken a toll among protestors in the Golan Heights on Sunday.

Pillay’s statement did not take on the question of reports that Israeli Defense Forces had laid new minefields in recent weeks to stop Palestinian and Syrian protestors from infiltrating via the Golan.

A UNHCR spokesperson said Wednesday afternoon that he had been unaware of these reports, which were published earlier in the week in the Israeli media [see yesterday’s post on this blog].

“The Government of Israel has a duty to ensure that its security personnel avoid the use of excessive force”, Pillay said in a statement issued on Tuesday afternoon, and posted here.

The statement, put out in Pillay’s name, also notes that “Reports have suggested that more than 20 civilians were killed and hundreds injured as a result of Israeli gunfire. Other reports suggest some of the casualties may have been caused by the detonation of landmines buried on the Syrian side of the ceasefire line“.

This wording avoids dealing with the possibility, suggested by Israeli media reports this week, that Israeli Defense Forces actually laid new minefields since May 15, when Israeli lines were overrun in the Golan Heights by Palestinian demonstrators from Syria, and some of their supporters, succeeded in entering the town of Majdal Shams.

It is not clear exactly where — assuming that this week’s Israeli media reports, sourced to IDF officials, are true — these reported newly-laid mine fields are actually located.

At a demonstration last Sunday, called to mark the anniversary of the June 1967 war and the start of the Israeli occupation (of the Golan Heights as well as the West Bank and Gaza), an uncertain number of demonstrators died or were wounded from mine explosions.

The first indications of the mine explosions came, in fact, from accounts given by IDF spokespersons themselves.

They said, disingenuously, that in these cases, the Palestinian and Syrian protesters should be held responsible for their own injuries because they failed to heed oral warnings — issued in Arabic, the IDF stressed — and because some protesters supposedly threw Molotov cocktails onto one minefield, thereby setting off one or more explosions.

This avoids the serious question of whether or not the IDF carried out proper notification — both to Syrian authorities and to UN peacekeeping missions working in the Golan — and also whether or not the minefields were properly marked, particularly any minefields which might have been newly-laid, in order to provide adequate warning to the demonstrators themselves.

It avoids directly dealing with reports that the IDF laid new minefields in the past three weeks specifically to stop infiltration by protestors.

And, it does seem to put more blame on Syrian authorities than on Israel, by saying that “Pillay also expressed concern over allegations that civilians were encouraged by the Syrian authorities to protest in areas where landmines are located”.

That is a very serious accusation indeed.

Continue reading UN Human Rights Commissioner is only UN official to deal with reports that minefields took toll on Golan protesters

Did Syria and Iran send peace signal to Israel? What about Lebanon?

A Guest Post from Aletheia Kallos/MD:


Geopolitical Diary: Syria and Israel Hint at Peace Talks
April 24, 2008 | 0154 GMT

The morning of April 21, we woke up to a report in the Syrian media saying that Israel had agreed to hand the Golan Heights back to Syria in exchange for a peace agreement. The Syrian story was reported in the Israeli media, with no comment from the Olmert government, although several Israeli politicians vigorously condemned the idea. Since Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was reported to be on vacation, we figured there was a time delay and settled back waiting for the Israeli government to deny the Syrian report.

That’s when it became interesting. Rather than denying the report, Olmert’s spokesman Mark Regev said, “I have nothing to add beyond what the prime minister said on Friday in his interviews with the Israeli press about his desire for peace with Syria.” Olmert had said, “Very clearly we want peace with the Syrians and are taking all manner of action to this end. President Bashar al-Assad knows precisely what our expectations are and we know his. I won’t say more.”

On Wednesday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem held a press conference in Tehran, of all places, along with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki. Al-Moallem said there that “if Israel is serious and wants peace, nothing will stop the renewal of peace talks”. Another Syrian minister, speaking on al Jazeera at about the same time, said that “Olmert is ready for peace with Syria on the grounds of international conditions; on the grounds of the return
of the Golan Heights in full to Syria.”

So now we have the Syrian foreign minister offering peace talks with the Israelis while standing next to the Iranian foreign minister, who apparently did not go into cardiac arrest; another Syrian minister confirming this and implying that the quid pro quo for peace is the Golan Heights; and the Israeli prime minister’s office refusing to deny these reports while referring back to a statement made by the prime minister in which he said that Israel wants peace with
the Syrians and both sides know what the terms are.

This is not quite the same thing as saying that a deal has been made. What it is saying is that the terms of such a deal are clearly understood by both sides and that neither side is walking away from the table, which means that the terms are at least in the ball park — so much so from the Syrian side that it was worth going to Tehran to talk about it with the Iranians, and apparently the Iranians did not back away from Syria. That means that the Syrians not only
have their ally on board, but are signaling the Israelis that the ally — Iran — can live with the terms, which of course opens other vistas.

The talk today has focused on the Golan Heights, at least as far as the Syrians are concerned. From the Israeli point of view, the Heights are not nearly as militarily critical as they once might have appeared. While holding the Heights — which, unlike Gaza, are fairly lightly populated — the Syrians fired artillery at Israeli settlements. That was a problem, but not a strategic threat. Holding the Golan Heights did pose a challenge to the Israelis. In the 1973 War, the Israelis had to fight with their backs to the Golan escarpment in order to block the Syrians. Had the Syrians held the Heights, and the Israelis were in the hills on the other side of the Jordan River, the strategic situation would have been different. The Syrians could not have taken the Israelis by surprise, and the armor descending the Heights would have been in the killing ground for Israeli armor, artillery and missiles as they descended. Moreover, in today’s
military environment, conventional artillery is vulnerable to everything from cruise missiles to helicopters firing Hellfire missiles and to computerized counter-battery fire. Whatever the argument was for taking the Heights in 1967, the military situation has evolved since then.

It is therefore not inconceivable that Olmert would trade the Golan Heights for a peace treaty. But the real issue between Israel and Syria isn’t the Golan Heights. The issue is Lebanon.

Syria’s fundamental interest is to the west, where it has strategic and economic interests. It wants to be the dominant power in Lebanon. Israel also has deep interests in Lebanon, which are primarily defensive. It does not want Lebanon used — primarily by Hezbollah At this point — as a base from which to attack Israel. Israel and Syria had an informal understanding after the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon that Syria would have a free hand there and would be expected to control Hezbollah. There is a basis for understanding here as well — one which would leave many Lebanese in a difficult position, but might satisfy Israeli and Syrian interests.

But before that comes the domestic battle in Israel. There are powerful forces that would argue, one, the Golan is much more significant militarily than we have portrayed it here; two, allowing Syria to dominate Lebanon gives Damascus another axis from which to attack Israel later; and three, Israel would find a Syrian-Iranian force to its north over the next generation. These are not trivial arguments and can be reinforced by the Tehran press conference, which signaled that the Syrians are not acting independently of the Iranians.

At the same time, Olmert will argue that peace is worth the risk and point to Egypt as an example. The argument will go on, but now at least we are seeing where the various odd events of the past few weeks were leading — and it is not clear that it cannot end in war. If this falls apart, as it well might, the situation could rapidly spiral out of control as both countries start to maneuver in Lebanon.

All of this is fascinating, but what stands out is the fact that the Iranians have signaled that they can live with a deal with Israel. In the long run, the implications of that are the most interesting”.

Israel and the Syria Track

Israel’s Prime Minister has sent about 20 messages to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in the last year, feeling out the possibility of resuming peace talks between the two countries, according to a report by correspondent Barak Ravid published on Sunday in Haaretz newspaper. 

The source for the story was an unnamed “senior Israeli minister”, who told Haaretz that Olmert’s purpose was “to better assess Syria‘s intentions”. 

However, the “senior Israeli Minister” told Haaretz that the Syrian responses “did not meet Israeli expectations”, and were not satisfactory, and so as a result “Olmert believes that at this time it is not possible to initiate negotiations with Syria”.

During the time of these newly-revealed messages, Israel also apparently made a military strike in early September against a target in eastern Syria which may or may not have had something to do with a nuclear program, a missile program, or weapons being funneled from Iran, according to various speculative reports in the media. 

At least one of the messages Olmert sent to Syria in the past year was just before that reported strike, saying that Israel had no hostile intentions.

Indeed, after months of growing tension and speculation that there might be a re-play of Israel’s 2006 “Second Lebanon War”, Israel signaled that it decided that war with Syria was unlikely, in part apparently because Syria’s military had reduced its war readiness  — and Israel rotated forces out of the contested Golan Heights, just before the strike.

Syrian leaders reportedly complained bitterly that Olmert’s message was a diversion meant to get Syria to drop its guard before the strike – though they say that the strike caused no significant damage.

The “senior Israeli minister” who told Haaretz about Olmert’s messages to Syria said that most of these efforts were made through via Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, although others were also involved, “including U.S. congressmen and various European officials”.

The messages concerned the possible agenda for the talks between the two countries — including “whether Assad was willing to include in the talks his country’s ties with Iran, Hezbollah and Palestinian militant organizations”.

The latest flurry of speculation about Israel-Syria talks started with remarks made by Olmert last Wednesday evening to a press conference with the international press corps

accredited in Israel.   One journalist from Bloomberg News asked Olmert: “Mr. Prime Minister, you said that you’re willing to sit down and talk to the Syrians.  Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he is willing to talk to you.  What exactly is keeping you guys from sitting down and starting to talk?” 

Olmert replied: “I said indeed that I am prepared to make peace with Syria.  I hope that the Syrians are prepared to make peace with Israel and I hope that circumstances will allow us to sit together.  That doesn’t mean that when we sit together you have to see us”. 

Last spring, news was leaked of semi-official contacts with a Syrian-American go-between, Dr. Ibrahim (Abe) Suleiman, described as “a Syrian Allawite who has been living in the U.S. for many years” who had been talking to Dr. Alon Liel in Israel.  Suleiman “accepted the invitation of Meretz-Yahad faction chairwoman Zahava Gal-On in April to present Syria‘s point of view on relations with Israel to the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee”, but saw no officials in the Israeli government, according to an article published last October by Haaretz’s Akiva Eldar.

According to Eldar, Suleiman’s contact in Damascus was General Mohammed Nassif, who communicated the details from Suleiman to President Assad. 

At least one of the European go-betweens was a ranking Ambassador in the Swiss Foreign Ministry, Nicholas Lang, who also tried a little shuttle diplomacy on behalf of Swiss Foreign Minister (and Swiss President in 2007) Micheline Calmy-Ray.  Suleiman was, according to Haaretz’s Eldar, apparently also “a secret and partially official envoy of Syria to the Swiss channel”.

Eldar wrote in Haaretz in October that the Syrian leadership had an ambivalent attitude toward these contacts with Israel: “On the one hand, in one of his recent speeches, Assad bragged about the indirect contacts Syria has made with Israel through Syrian expatriates living in the West in an attempt to reach a diplomatic arrangement…On the other hand, since his visit to Jerusalem, Suleiman has become a persona non grata in Damascus. His Swiss colleagues are also not very welcome there. At the end of May, Suleiman visited Berne and met with the president and foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey. The two decided that the time was ripe to visit Damascus together to congratulate Assad on his election for a second term. At the same time, they tried to convince the Syrian president to reopen the channel that was closed last summer after the special Swiss envoy [n.b. Nicholas Lang, now serving as Ambassador in a post in Africa], who was in charge of the talks, left empty-handed following his meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s adviser, Yoram Turbowicz.   As Suleiman reported to American friends, he called the bureau of Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mualem from Berne and told the head of the bureau, an official by the name of Samir, that the Swiss president wished to visit Damascus in two weeks’ time in his company.  According to Suleiman, Samir immediately responded that ‘this is not the time’.”

But, Israeli sources complained at the time these efforts were revealed, the U.S. had put pressure on Israel to drop any flirtation with Syria in order to concentrate on the negotiations with the Palestinians. 

A sort of rivalry has existed – and been manipulated – for years between the Syrian negotiaion track with Israel, and the “Palestinian” track.

So, the not-too-subtle, even rather provocative, hint contained in that last phrase of Olmert’s answer, suggesting more recent secret contacts, sent reporters rushing out to check with sources.

It is interesting that Olmert declined to seize an opportunity, in last week’s press conference, to pile on complaints about Syria.  Instead, when Olmert was asked about the Arab peace initiative – and especially about what it says concerning Syria – he replied: “I much prefer to speak about the whole thing and you know, I don’t see any particular reason now to separate the different parts of the Arab Peace Initiative.  The Arab Peace Initiative is relevant”. 

Other Israeli ministers then added their views.

Israel’s Minister of National Infrastructures Benjamin (Fouad) Ben-Eliezer (who was born in Iraq) said on Israel Radio Friday morning that “Israel is making every effort to restore Syria to the negotiating table. The efforts are constant and are being done through common friends…We know exactly what the price would be”. 

Haaretz reported that on Friday evening, in a briefing for foreign diplomats at the Labor Party headquarters in Tel Aviv, Israel’s Defense Minister (and former Prime Minister) Ehud Barak said that “in the end, Israel will meet Syria either in the field of battle or in the negotiating table … Syria is a weak country with many problems, but under certain conditions Israel will be willing to open the door to it … Israel considers negotiations with Syria and removing Syria from the circle of extremists as central to its policy.” 

Barak also said, according to Haaretz, that “It would not be a good idea for someone to try something against us at this time … We are following what is going on in the North, the growing strength of Hezbollah with Syrian backing and the developments over the border in Syria. Israel is the most powerful country in the region and this is what enables it to stand on guard but also try to seek [peace] agreements.”

Haaretz reported in a second article on Sunday that “A week earlier, [during the visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel] Olmert told a joint meeting of the Israeli and German Cabinets that he was ready to restart negotiations with Syria if Damascus would end its support for Lebanon’s Hezbollah guerrillas and Palestinian militant groups”.


During Ehud Barak’s tenure as Israeli Prime Minister, attempts by U.S. President Bill Clinton to restart Israeli-Syria negotiations at talks with Syria’s President Hafez al-Assad at the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva failed in May 2000 — over the issue of the extent of Israel’s proposed withdrawal from the Golan Heights which Israel captured in 1967 and then annexed de facto in 1981 by proclaiming that Israeli law applied to the Golan.  This is generally regarded as null and void by most United Nations member states on the basis of international law.  Most of the remaining Arab inhabitants of the Golan are Druse who continue to define themselves as Syrian citizens.  Tens of thousands of other Syrians fled the Golan Heights during the 1967 war. 

Israel says it then came under surprise attack from Syria on the Golan in the 1973 war.  The Israeli army was successful there at that time, IDF Brigadier-General (Reserve) Tzvika Foghel told journalists during a recent tour of the Golan in late 2007, because the Syrians “had a day-mission habit.  That is, they only had orders for the day, and the mission of the day was to stop at a certain point.  We used the time they were resting to push them back”.

In any case, Syria has consistently demanded the return of the entire Golan Heights, which overlooks a large part of Syria, and also part of Lebanon, all the way down to the waters of Lake Tiberias (also known as the Sea of Galilee or Lake Kinneret).

Israel has signaled it will not give up a strip of land along the shore of the lake from which it draws some 35% of Israel’s water supply.

Israeli officials argue that Syria never had “its feet in the water” of the Sea of Galilee, at least according to the maps of the League of Nations mandatory period.  But, in 1948, Syrian soldiers apparently did manage to secure positions on the shore. 

Then, as part of the UN-negotiated armistice agreement between Israel and Syria, signed 20 July 1949, Israel demanded that Syria withdraw from some positions on the Golan, including on the shores of Lake Tiberias.  Syria agreed — as long as these positions were to be demilitarized. 

A letter from UN mediator Ralph Bunch to Israel’s then-Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett which is appended to the armistice agreement says that “in the Israeli-Transjordan Armistice Agreement…the armistice demarcation lines agreed upon involved changes in the then existing truce lines, and that this was done in both cases without any question being raised as to the sovereignty over or the final disposition of the territory involved. It was taken for granted by all concerned that this was a matter for final peace settlement. The same applies to the provision for the al-‘Auja zone in the Egyptian-Israeli Agreement. From the beginning of these negotiations our greatest difficulty has been to meet Israel‘s unqualified demand that the Syrian forces be withdrawn from Palestine. We have now, with very great effort, persuaded the Syrians to agree to this. I trust that this will not be undone by legalistic demands about broad principles of sovereignty and administration which in any case would be worked out in the practical operation of the scheme”.

Israelis moved into many of the demilitarized zones in subsequent years, and then captured them militarily in the 1967 war.

Syria wants the whole lot back.

UN Security Council welcomes appointment of cartographer to define Shebaa Farms area

In a presidential statement — which has less weight than a resolution — the members of the UN Security Council welcomed the SG’s appointment of a cartographer (map maker) to “to review relevant material and develop an accurate territorial definition of the Shabaa Farms area”

This area, on the border between Lebanon and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, has been the cause of tensions and more since Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000.

Following Israel’s withdrawal, the UN SG determined that the Shebaa Farms belongs to Syria (which no longer controls the area), despite the fact that both Syria and Lebanon said that Shebaa Farms was Lebanese.  Unwilling if not unable to backtrack, the SG’s appointment of a cartographer to study the issue means that no decision will be forthcoming soon.

Israel’s attack on Lebanon this past summer was provoked by Hezbollah’s capture of two Israeli soldiers in this area.