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Golan Heights

Golan Heights
Full nameGolan Heights
Native nameهضبة الجولان
רמת הגולן
StatusInternationally recognised as Syrian territory occupied by Israel. Currently under Israeli civil administration. Claimed by Syria.
Total Area694.8 sq mi (1800 km2)
Highest Elevation9232.3 ft (2814 m)
Lowest Elevation0 ft (0 m)
Total Population38,900 (in the Israeli-occupied part) 79,000 (in the Syrian- controlled part) (2005)

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The Golan Heights ( or مرتفعات الجولان , , ), also referred to as Syrian Golan or the Syrian Heights), form a rocky plateau of great strategic importance with an average altitude of 1000 m (3280.8 ft) and an area totaling 1800 km2 (695 sqmi). The plateau is located at the southern end of the Anti-Lebanon mountains and straddles the borders of Syria and Israel. Elevations range from 2814 m (9232.3 ft) in the north at Mount Hermon, to below sea level along the Sea of Galilee and the Yarmuk River in the south. A popular tourist destination attracting three million tourists a year, the Golan has a rich history and features numerous archeological landmarks, scenic streams, mountains and waterfalls. The Golan Heights contribute significantly to the water resources of the region, providing about 15% of Israel's water supply. The region is also the source of a large proportion of Israel's agricultural production.

The earliest evidence of human habitation dates to the Upper Paleolithic period. According to the Bible, an Amorite Kingdom in Bashan was conquered by Israelites during the reign of King Og. The biblical narrative also indicates that the Israelite tribe of Manasseh inhabited the region.

The Arameans controlled the majority of the area. Itureans settled there in the middle of the 2nd century BCE. During the First Jewish � Roman War the town of Gamla served as the Jewish stronghold in the north, and in the 3rd century the Ghassanids established their capital at Jabiyah. Jews continued to inhabit the area until the end of the 11th century. In the 16th century, the Golan was conquered by the Ottoman Empire and was part of the Ottoman Vilayet of Damascus until it was transferred to French control in 1918 under the French Mandate of Syria. When the mandate terminated in 1944, it became part of the newly independent Syrian Arab Republic.

Two-thirds of the land was captured by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War and has since been occupied by Israel. Immediately after the war, Israel was willing to give up the Golan in exchange for peace with Syria; however, Syria refused to negotiate. In the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War Israel agreed to return about 5% of the territory to Syrian civilian control. This part was incorporated into a demilitarised zone that runs along the ceasefire line and extends eastward. This strip is under the military control of UN peace keeping forces. Construction of Israeli settlements began in the remainder of the territory held by Israel which was governed under military administration until 1981, when Israel passed the Golan Heights Law extending Israeli law and administration throughout the territory. This move was condemned by the United Nations Security Council in UN Resolution 497, which said that "the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect." Israel, however, asserts its right to retain the area, citing the text of UN Resolution 242, adopted after the Six-Day War, which calls for "safe and recognised boundaries free from threats or acts of force". Many states consider continued Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights valid on a self-defense basis. However, the international community rejects Israeli claims to title to the territory and regards it as sovereign Syrian territory.

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