On Tuesday, Israeli intelligence officials revealed that they had assessed high-profile Hezbollah organizational activity in the Golan Heights region. Hezbollah, which is an Iran-backed Shiite supremacist terror group based in Lebanon, has been active in fighting alongside Bashar al-Assad in the bloody Syrian civil war. But apparently the network's tentacles now reach into the Golan Heights. The Wall Street Journal reports:
The U.S. charged Ali Mussa Daqduq with orchestrating the 2007 kidnapping and murder of five American soldiers in Iraq. But Iraq released him from custody in 2012 because of what officials said was lack of convincing evidence against him, despite the Obama administration pushing Baghdad to hold him accountable. There have been conflicting reports of the Hezbollah commander’s whereabouts since his release.
On Tuesday, Israeli intelligence officials said Mr. Daqduq resurfaced on the Syrian-controlled side of the Golan Heights about six months ago and began efforts to set up a network of the Iran-allied militant group on its borders—eventually to launch attacks into Israel.
Israeli officials said they hope exposing Mr. Daqduq’s activities would pressure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to get the group out of the area.
The Israeli intelligence revelation comes amid a week in which, for the very first time, the U.S. government referred to the Golan Heights — which Israel first acquired in 1967's existential Six Day War defensive fight and formally annexed in 1981 — not as "occupied territory," but instead as "under Israeli control." The Daily Wire reported on Wednesday, quoting Axios:
The U.S. refers to the Golan Heights as an area "under Israeli control," instead of "occupied territory," for the first time in a human rights report issued today by the State Department. ...
This step is both symbolic and significant. Israel occupied the Golan Heights, recognized internationally as Syrian territory, during the 1967 war. In the last year, Israel has been lobbying the Trump administration and Congress to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the area. The change in language in the report is not a recognition of Israeli sovereignty, but is a clear signal in that direction.
As anyone who has ever personally visited the Golan Heights would be able to attest, "under Israeli control" is simply an accurate description of the on-the-ground reality as to how the strategically sensitive, mountainous region is administered and governed.
More generally, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been pushing the U.S. government to formally recognize Israel's full-on annexation of the Golan Heights. For example, in January, as The Daily Wire reported, Netanyahu made a direct pitch to U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton:
On Sunday, standing next to U.S. national security advisor John Bolton, Netanyahu...stated, "The Golan Heights is tremendously important for our security," adding that he hoped to take a helicopter with Bolton to see the Golan plateau on Monday so that Bolton could "understand perfectly why we will never leave the Golan Heights, and why it is important that all countries recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights."
Bolton said that the United States regarded the "ultimate mark of sovereignty" as a country’s ability to defend itself. He added, "President Trump has said repeatedly that he backs Israel’s right to self-defense. He says it proudly and unequivocally. And I would just say to any nation in this region — or not in this region — that has any doubt about America’s support for Israel’s self-defense — it better think about it again." He concluded, "We have the best Israel-U.S. relationship in our history, and on our side we are certainly determined to continue that."