Jerusalem (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered a brief freeze in construction on a wind turbine project in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights that set off a rare clash between Druze residents and police.
Netanyahu said late Saturday he agreed to a pause on the project during this week’s Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, which is meant to allow time for talks to defuse the crisis. The project is expected to resume next week. A statement from Netanyahu’s office said he made the decision based on advice from security officials.
The Druze oppose the plan, which would install more than two dozen 200-meter (660-foot) tall turbines throughout their land. The landowners said the turbines will harm their agricultural output and that the energy company behind the project didn’t consult with them in good faith, a claim the company denies.
Last week, thousands of residents demonstrated against the project, storming a police station, throwing stones and fireworks, setting tires on fire, vandalizing police cars, blocking roads and even shooting live fire into the air, according to police.
Israel captured the Golan, a strategic plateau overlooking northern Israel, from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel subsequently annexed the area in a move that was recognized by former U.S. President Donald Trump in 2019. But most of the international community considers the area to be occupied territory.
While Druze leaders still profess allegiance to Syria, relations with Israel are normally good. The Golan is a popular vacation destination for Israelis and is filled with hotels and restaurants, and most residents speak Hebrew fluently. Violent clashes with Israeli authorities are rare.