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Syrians in occupied Golan Heights protest over Israel wind farm project

Residents denounce the project as infringing on their lands while benefitting Israeli settlers in the region
Israeli police vehicles blocking access to Druze lands in the occupied Golan Heights (Social media)

Syrians in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights protested on Monday against access restrictions to their lands and crops in preparation for the installation of wind farms that will benefit Israeli settlements in the area, news outlet Arab48 reported.

Four Syrian villages were illegally 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 Majdal Shams, Buqata, Masada, Ein Qiniyye, and a similar number of Israelis live in almost 30 settlements and agriculture outposts in the area.

The Al-Sham Center in Majdal Shams has called people to "protect" the lands and to "defend us" on Monday. 

Israeli forces cut roads and entry access to the Syrian Druze's lands on Monday, and police cars were deployed in the area.

There are several Israeli and international companies involved in developing wind turbines in Golan Heights, including Energix Renewable Energies, Enlight Renewable Energy and General Electric. 

Monday's protest was directed at Energex Group's development and the company's employees were escorted by Israeli military police.

In May, Energix has denied allegations of "environmental harm" or threatening the livelihood of the Syrian Druze, saying the wind farm project will create jobs for the local community.

In 2015, Israeli energy 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 using wind-driven turbines.

Residents from four Syrian Druze villages of Majdal Shams, Buqata, Masada, Ein Qiniyye said the Israeli wind farms projects in the Golan Heights will affect about 3,600 dunams (890 acres) of their apple, grapes and cherry orchards.

In February, Syrians from the Golan Heights started a general strike in protest over the wind farms, after leaders of the community faced court cases for rejecting and obstructing the project and the Israeli Ministry of Education sent warnings to teachers not to participate in any action against the wind farms.

According to local media, the wind farms will limit the expansion of the villages, which are settled on a mountainous slope. One of them is Majdal Shams, where the only area available for expansion to the south of the village has been claimed for the construction of wind turbines. 

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.