Thousands of Syrians have staged protests across different cities against US President Donald Trump’s formal recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights, a move that has sparked global concern and a call for “resistance” from Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
Men and women carrying Syrian and Palestinian flags and banners reading “Golan is Syrian” marched through the southern city of Sweida in Syria on Tuesday, according to state-run SANA news agency, as Imad Sara, the country’s information minister, called for a “strong response” and at a rally in Damascus.
Protests also took place in southern Deraa, about 20 kilometres from the Golan Heights, and in northern Aleppo, as well as Homs and Hama in the country’s centre.
“We are here to condemn Trump’s Golan decision,” said Mohammad Shaaban, a protester in Aleppo. “The Golan is Arab and Syrian whether they like it or not.”
Trump’s move on Monday made the US the first country to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan, which was captured from Syria in a 1967 war and regarded by the rest of the international community as occupied territory.
Syria has called the move “blatant aggression”.
Amid growing condemnation, including from a number of US’s European allies, the leader of Hezbollah said the decision proves “resistance, resistance, and resistance” was the only way to retake lands occupied by Israel.
In a televised speech on Tuesday, Hassan Nasrallah described Trump’s move as “a crucial turning point in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict”, which “deals a knockout punch” to peace in the region.
Hezbollah, the only side not to have disarmed after Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war, is credited with expelling Israel from the south of the country in 2000.
The group is a key backer of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, where its fighters have helped Damascus gain ground against rebels and other armed groups during the country’s eight-year civil war.
Nasrallah said it was the muted response of Arab countries to Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel last year that had encouraged a similar declaration on the Golan.
“Therefore we must expect, and I tell that to the Arab and Muslim people and in particular our Palestinian brothers, we should expect that after a while Trump comes out and says he is supportive of the Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank too,” he warned.
Meanwhile, ambassadors from the five EU members of the UN Security Council – France, Germany, Britain, Poland and Belgium – issued a joint statement saying that they do not recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
“Annexation of territory by force is prohibited under international law,” and any unilateral border changes go against “the rules-based international order and the UN Charter,” they said.
“We raise our strong concerns about broader consequences of recognizing illegal annexation and also about the broader regional consequences,” they said.
All five countries are close US allies.