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Stirring International Tensions, Israel Green-Lights Oil Drilling in Occupied Syrian Territory

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer

In a move that many anticipate will incite international protest, Israel has authorized oil drilling in the occupied Golan Heights territory, awarding the first contract to a US-Israeli energy firm.

The Israel/ Syria border in the Golan Heights. (Photo: mockstar via Flickr) Considering the land's official status as an Israeli-occupied Syrian territory, awarding a drilling license "could cause an international fracas," writes Israeli business journal Globes.

The contract was awarded to US-Israeli energy company Genie, whose shareholders include Rupert Murdoch and Jacob Rothschild, with former US Vice President Dick Cheney listed as an adviser. The firm is headed by Effie Eitam, a Golan settler and former hardline right wing cabinet minister.

Israel seized Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Middle East Six-Day War and annexed it in 1981—a move that was never sanctioned by the international community. Since that time, the strategic plateau has been extensively settled by Israelis.

Golan's status "has been at the heart of past Israeli-Syrian peace talks, with Damascus demanding its full return" writes RT, with early oil exploration halting 20 years ago, "as Israel hoped for a peace deal with Syria, but the accord is yet to be signed.

Though early oil exploration was halted 20 years ago during mid-east peace talks, according to Globe, last summer—following geological tests which indicated a large potential oil reserve in the southern Golan Heights—Uzi Landau, the Israeli Minister of Energy and Water Resources, declared the site open for oil and gas exploration and production activity.

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