The strategic value of the Golan Heights to Israel cannot be overstated. As with the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), the visual and radar stations located there give advance warning of any approach from Syria. Any attacking ground force would be effectively blocked by having to cross the Golan Heights. Conversely, if held by an enemy as in the past, it puts northern Israel directly under their guns.
Furthermore, about one third of Israel's fresh water supply originates there, in the watershed of Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) and must be protected. In 1964, Syria, then occupying the Golan Heights, tried to divert these critical headwaters away from Israel in a blatant attempt to cripple Israel's fresh-water supply. The IDF destroyed the Syrian damming project.
The area of the Shaaba Farms, adjacent to the Golan Heights, has become a hot-spot of attacks from Lebanon, as Syrian-backed Hezbollah forces keep pressure on Israel. Syria supports Lebanon's claim to Shebaa Farms, although Israel, which maintains a troop presence there, says it is part of the Golan Heights seized from Syria in 1967. Apparently Syria is using the Hezbollah as a proxy force to engage Israel militarily, which Syria has been unwilling to do directly. In addition to its strong influence inside Lebanon and with the Hezbollah, Syria allegedly provides transit for Hezbollah guerrillas and for weapons from Iran directed to Hezbollah and Palestinian Arab forces. Israel has attacked Syrian installations in response to Hezbollah actions to demonstrate that Israel understands the linkage.
About 17,000 Israeli citizens live on the Golan Heights in settlements established after Israel regained control of the area in 1967. On again-off again peace talks with Syria have not yielded any results.
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