Syria Turns to UN to Protest Local Druze Elections in Israeli Golan Heights

Syria's Foreign Ministry says the move is part of an ongoing effort to annex territory categorized as occupied by the UN Security Council

A marching band plays at a rally of Druze residents of Israel who are loyal to Syria's President Bashar Assad, May 2014.
Gil Eliahu

The Syrian Foreign Ministry has lodged an official protest with the United Nations over Israel’s announcement last week that four Druze towns on the Golan Heights will hold local elections next year.

The letter, which was sent to both the UN Security Council and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, charged that the elections constituted a gross violation of the UN Charter, international humanitarian law and the Geneva Convention, according to the official Syrian news agency SANA.

Last week, Interior Minister Arye Dery announced that for the first time since Israel captured the Golan in 1967, four Druze towns there – Buq’ata, Masadeh, Majdal Shams and Ein Kinya – would hold local elections in October 2018. Until now, the towns’ mayors have been appointed by the Interior Ministry.

The Syrian complaint said the elections constituted another step in an ongoing effort to annex territory that the Security Council defines as occupied.

The letter “affirmed that Syria categorically rejects the announcement by the Israeli occupation on holding elections of the so-called ‘local councils’ on October 2018 in the villages of the occupied Syrian Golan, stressing that the Golan is an integral part of the Syrian territory and that it will return to the motherland sooner or later,” SANA’s English-language website said.

The letter also accused Israel of supporting terrorist organizations, a term the Syrian government uses for all rebel organizations involved in the country’s ongoing civil war. “The Ministry pointed out that these Israeli actions come as no surprise because Israel has been investing in the crisis in Syria through its support to the armed terrorist groups which was clear since the beginning of the events in Syria,” SANA said.

Nevertheless, the letter added, all of Israel’s attempts to strengthen its hold on the Golan will fail.