Israel authorizes oil drilling in occupied Golan: reports

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Israel has authorized drilling for oil on the occupied Golan Heights in a move likely to draw international protest, local media reported on Thursday.

Yediot Aharonot daily said that a license to prospect had been issued to U.S.-Israeli energy company Genie, headed by Effie Eitam, a Golan settler and former hardline rightwing cabinet minister.

Business journal Globes said that shareholders include media mogul Rupert Murdoch while Republican former vice president Dick Cheney is an advisor.

Israel seized the Golan from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed it in 1981, in a move never recognized by the international community.

“Awarding a drilling license on the Golan could cause an international fracas, given the Golan’s status as occupied Syrian territory under international law,” Globes said.

Yediot wrote that Israel halted oil exploration on the strategic plateau 20 years ago, during Middle East peace talks.

“Israel was afraid at that time that drilling for oil on the Golan Heights might undermine future possible agreements,” it said.

The Israeli energy ministry spokeswoman could not immediately be reached for comment.

Israel has substantial gas deposits off its Mediterranean coast.

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