Damascus has accused Israel of killing a former member of Syria’s parliament with a sniper firing from across the border in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
Medhat al-Saleh was gunned down in Ain al-Tinah, a Syrian village that overlooks Majdal Shams, a town on the Israeli side of the Golan. Al-Saleh was a Syrian Druze who was born on the Israeli side of the border.
After being jailed multiple times by Israeli authorities, including a 12-year sentence, al-Saleh moved to Syria and was elected to parliament in 1998.
After leaving parliament, al-Saleh was appointed as a government advisor for the Golan Heights. According to SANA, al-Saleh was the head of Syrian Golan Affairs and was killed Saturday “when the Israeli enemy targeted him.”
Israel’s military has not commented on the matter, but that is usually the case when it comes to Israeli operations inside Syria. Israel is constantly bombing Syria, and Israeli officials rarely acknowledge the strikes.
Israeli media portrayed al-Saleh as being linked to Iran, but people who knew him are disputing the claim. According to The Associated Press, Samih Ayoub, a resident on the Israeli side of the Golan, said al-Saleh had “no connection” to Iran or any militia groups. “He’s just a quiet man who works in an office. They killed him next to his house,” he said.
The Golan Heights was captured from Syria by Israel in 1967. In 1981, Israel formally annexed the territory, a move that was not internationally recognized. In 2019, the Trump administration made the US the first country to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, and the Biden administration has no plans to reverse the recognition.
Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett reaffirmed Israel’s stance that the Golan Heights is Israeli territory. He announced a plan to quadruple the population of the Golan Heights to tighten Israel’s grip on the territory.