Syria hit back at Israel Sunday hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that the Golan Heights will remain in Israeli hands. Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad warned that his war-torn state would retake the plateau by any means necessary.
Netanyahu had convened the first-ever cabinet meeting in the Golan Heights, and used the occasion to declare that the territory seized by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War would forever remain a part of Israel.
Mekdad declared that the “Arab Syrian Golan Heights” is still occupied territory according to international law and would eventually be taken back from the Israelis.
“All options are on the table for getting back the occupied territory from Israel,” Mekdad told the Beirut-based al-Mayadeen news channel. “We are prepared to do anything in order to return the Golan to the Syrian motherland, including using military force.”
In the interview on the Pan-Arab news station, Mekdad called on the entire “Arab nation” to help take back all the “occupied territories” from Israel.
He also accused Israel of being behind “terror attacks” against Syria and called the Israeli cabinet meeting a “political attack.”
Netanyahu said during the cabinet meeting that he told US Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday that Israel does not oppose efforts to reach a political agreement to end the Syrian civil war, but that Israel’s boundary line with the country would not change.
“I convened this celebratory meeting in the Golan Heights to send a clear message: The Golan will always remain in Israel’s hands. Israel will never withdraw from the Golan Heights,” he declared.
While the international community never accepted Israel’s decision to apply its law to the Golan Heights, Israeli leaders see the turmoil in Syria as an opportunity to convince the world to recognize its sovereignty there.
“It is time the international community recognized reality,” Netanyahu said. “Whatever happens on the other side of the border, the border itself will not move. Secondly, after 50 years it is time that the international community realized that the Golan will remain under Israeli sovereignty.”
During the 19 years — from 1948-1967 — in which the area was “under Syrian occupation,” it was used mostly for warfare against Israel, he said.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report