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Syria: Israel approves plan to double settlers in occupied Golan Heights

New plan aims to build 7,300 settler homes in the region over a five-year period
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Israeli soldiers of the Nahal Brigade take part in a drill near the settlement of Kidmat Tsvi in the Israel-occupied Golan Heights, on 27 October 2021 (AFP)

Israel's government on Sunday approved a $317m plan to double the Jewish settler population in the occupied Golan Heights.

The cabinet of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett voted in favour of the plan, announced in October, that aims to build 7,300 settler homes in the region over a five-year period, during a meeting held at the Mevo Hama community in the Golan. 

The Golan Heights were captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, which led to the expulsion of 131,00 Syrians from the cities of Quneitra and Fiq and some 137 villages and 112 farms, according to official Syrian figures

The Golan Heights: Why it matters
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At present, only four Syrian villages remain under occupation, where almost 20,000 Syrians from the Druze community are facing numerous Israeli settlement projects, including building wind turbines on their farming lands.

Sunday's plan calls for 1bn Israeli shekels to be spent on housing, infrastructure and other projects with the goal of attracting roughly 23,000 new Jewish settlers to the area.

"Our goal today is to double the population of the Golan Heights," the right-wing Bennett said ahead of the meeting.

Israel annexed the Golan Heights and applied Israeli laws over the territory during the government of the right-wing prime minister Menachem Begin in 1981, in a unilateral move never recognised by the international community.

In 2019, the administration of then-US president Donald Trump announced it would recognise Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights. As a result, Israel has named a small settlement of 20 mobile houses after Trump.

President Joe Biden's administration affirmed in June that the current US policy regarding the Golan Heights will not change, denying media reports that it was planning to reverse the recognition of Israel's claim over the area.