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Golan Heights
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    (June 10, 1967- )
    Syrian territory occupied by Israel since the end of the Six-Day War (1967)
    Area: 500 square miles (1,300 square kilometers)
    Population of approximately 20,000 Druze Arabs and 20,000 Israeili settlers
    From the first Arab-Israeli War (1948) to the Six-Day War, Syrian artillery located in the Heights would shell Israeli border communities.
    During the Six-Day War, 100,000 residents of the area either fled or were forcibly evicted.
    Refugees have not been allowed to return on security grounds.
    After the Six-Day War, over 100 Syrian villages were demolished and the land given to Israeli settlers.
    Israel and Syria disagree on what the pre-Six-Day War borders were, complicating any negotiations.
    Further complicating the situation, Lebanon claims that 8.5 square miles of Israeli-occupied territory known as the Shebaa Farms belong to it, not Syria.
    Arab farmers complain that water is distributed disproportionately to Israelis.
    People are still triggering and getting killed by landmines planted during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
    During the Syrian Civil War, there were several cross-border shooting incidents in the region (2012-13).
    The Israeli cabinet voted to return it to Syria in exchange for a peace agreement (June 19, 1967) only to be rebuffed.
    After the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israel withdrew from 5% of the territory to create a demilitarized zone patrolled by UN peacekeepers.
    It provides between 15 and 30% of Israel's water.
    Many archaeological sites are located in it.
    It is the location of the first wind farm in the Middle East.
    It has become home to a dozen wineries.
    Druze Arabs in the area have the right to vote in local elections, can travel throughout Israel and can take part in the country's social welfare programs.
    Several observers note that the Druze in the area enjoy a higher standard of living and a greater degree of freedom than they would in Assad's Syria.
    The Associated Press claimed, 'Many young Druze have been quietly relieved at the failure of previous Syrian-Israeli peace talks to go forward.'

Credit: C. Fishel

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