“When it suits Israel, they refer back to the 1974 Agreement [which saw the withdrawal of Israeli troops to the 1967 armistice line and established the UNDOF buffer zone on the Syrian side] using this as a reason to hit at the Syrian army,” said the source, adding that the Syrian army has no presence in the demilitarized zone. “Yet they don’t seem to have an issue with the presence of heavy weapons and tanks belonging to the militants in the same area.”
For Israel, establishing a buffer zone in southern Syria not only creates distance between its border and pro-government forces – particularly those backed by Iran – it also cements Tel Aviv’s control over the occupied Golan Heights, an area of Syrian land that the Israeli army captured in 1967.
After the war erupted in Syria, Israeli officials pointed to this instability as a reason to reopen the discussion on internationally recognizing Israel’s stake over the Golan Heights. To secure its grip, Israel also launched several infrastructure projects in the area (including the expansion of settlements in the Golan), invested public money to boost the local economy, and encouraged local residents to accept Israeli nationality.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spent the past three years lobbying world leaders, specifically those involved in Syria, to recognize that “after 50 years, the time has come for the international community to finally recognize that the Golan Heights will remain under Israel’s sovereignty permanently.”