On 9 September 2016 Al-Marsad submitted an objection to the “Hermon National Park” plan. The objection was submitted to the Israeli District Planning Committee in Nazareth, in the name of 40 people from the Syrian villages of Majdal Shams and Ein Qynia in the Occupied Syrian Golan. The objection was submitted by Al-Marsad lawyers, Karame Abu Saleh and Nizar Ayoub, and Al-Marsad urban planner, Dr. Nazih Brek.

The “Hermon National Park” plan confiscates approximately 82,000 dunams of land by the Israeli authorities, that has been used by the native Syrian residents of Majdal Shams and Ein Qynia since Ottoman rule for grazing, agriculture and urbanization.

Many of the objectors have documents demonstrating private land ownership, whilst others have documents issued by the commission endowments of Majdal Shams, giving them the right to build on the land.

The objection stresses:

  • That the Syrian Golan is Syrian land occupied by Israel in 1967, during which approximately 95% of the native civilian population (approximately 130,000 people) were forcibly transferred to Syria proper, and their homes (about 300 towns and villages and farms) were systematically destroyed.
  • That Israel’s annexation of the Occupied Syrian Golan on December 14, 1981 is contrary to international law, and void in legal terms, as stated in United Nations Security Council resolution No. 497 issued on December 17, 1981.
  • That the occupation authorities practice arbitrary planning, based on discriminatory policies, against the Syrian population that ignores their housing needs, does not leave them enough space for construction to meet their immediate needs and future development. In contrast, the occupation authorities continue their support of illegal Israeli settlement expansion, moving new Israeli settlers to the Occupied Syrian Golan and providing guarantees and incentives to improve their living conditions.
  • That the plan aims to restrict the residents of Majdal Shams and Ein Qynia, preventing them from continuing to use their own land for urban expansion to meet their growing needs – in particular, in light of an urban population growth rate of 3% per annum.

A significant part of the objection considers the critical situation in the village of Majdal Shams, situated on the slopes of Mount Hermon where it is impossible to expand the village to the east given its close proximity to the ceasefire line. Should the plan be approved, the “Hermon Reserve” would surround Majdal Shams in the north and west, and thus the only area available for urban expansion would be agricultural land in the south – a main source of livelihood for the local population. In addition, this effective ‘siege’ of the village would lead to extremely high prices for land for construction.

The population of Majdal Shams is about 11,000 people. Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics data shows that the natural growth of the population of Majdal Shams rate is 3% per year, the equivalent of 315 people, thus over 100 new housing units annually are required. Accordingly, the total residential units required over the next 20 years is approximately 2,000 housing units, which requires at least 500 dunams of land to facilitate. In addition, the fact that the steep topography reduces the available building land by 30%, must also be taken into account.

At the moment there are 800 families in Majdal Shams in urgent need of housing. They cannot build because of the severe restrictions imposed by the occupation authority planning and construction committees, resulting in a a sharp decrease in land available and allocated for building. The objectors have also submitted that the “Hermon National Park” plan appropriates 1000 dunams of land that had been allocated by the local council of Majdal Shams to the expansion of a new neighborhood, “New Majdal Shams”, to solve the severe overcrowding.

The objectors have demanded the cancellation of the plan on the basis that it is in violation of international law (international humanitarian law and international human rights law) applicable to the Syrian Golan as a territory under occupation; and that it violates the rights of the native Syrian population to adequate housing. The objectors have demanded that the occupying Israeli authorities instead pursue a planning policy that will facilitate the growth, development and housing needs of the local Syrian population.

Al-Marsad is an independent, not-for-profit, legal human rights organisation – it is the only human rights organisation operating in the Occupied Syrian Golan. For additional information, please contact marsad@golan-marsad.org.

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