Thousands of Druze Arab demonstrators in the Golan Heights faced Israeli authorities armed with tear gas, sponge-tipped bullets, and a water cannon. The protesters were voicing their opposition to the construction of wind turbines in the area.
This incident occurred on Wednesday in a region where the relationship between Druze residents and Israeli forces is generally peaceful. The Druze community is concerned that the construction of the turbines will cause damage to their properties. Furthermore, landowners claim that they were not adequately informed about the agreements they signed with a local power company.
During the protests, clashes broke out between the authorities and the demonstrators. Stones were thrown, fireworks were set off, tires were lit, roads were blocked, and cars were vandalized. As a result, at least 20 people were injured. Eight civilians sustained serious injuries, while 12 police officers suffered minor wounds.
The demonstrations also led to road closures in northern Israel. Druze citizens, who make up 1.5 percent of the population and have representation in the military and public service, participated in the protests.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Druze leader Sheikh Mowafaq Tarif to discuss the situation. Netanyahu expressed his deep concern over the events taking place in the Golan Heights.
Israel occupied the Golan Heights during the 1967 war and officially annexed the territory in 1981. This move was widely condemned by the United Nations Security Council through a unanimous resolution. It wasn’t until former US President Donald Trump recognized Israel’s claim to the territory that any other country acknowledged it. The current US President, Joe Biden, has not yet reversed this recognition.
Israeli leaders have asserted that the Golan Heights will always be a part of Israel. In 2021, they announced a plan to double the number of Israeli settlers in the region as a means to strengthen their control over it.
The Syrian government maintains that the Golan Heights rightfully belongs to Syria, and Druze leaders pledge their allegiance to Syria. Despite this, violent incidents between the Druze community and Israel are not commonplace.