In a thinly veiled threat of war, Syrian deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Mekdad told reporters in Amman, Jordan on Saturday that if Israel does not agree to surrender the Golan Heights as part of regional peace talks then Syria has "other options" to "liberate" the strategic plateau.
Addressing Israelis directly, Mekdad said it would be better for the Golan to be transferred to Syria "peacefully and without blood." He told Israelis that they should not raise their children in the Golan, which Israeli commentators took to mean that if armed hostilities break out, Syria will target the Israeli civilian population on the Golan.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War. For the preceding 19 years, Syria used the commanding heights to launch two full-scale invasions and almost daily sniper attacks on the Jewish state.
Syria says that former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin promised during nascent peace talks in the early 1990s that Israel would surrender at least most of the Golan as part of any peace deal. Faysal said that current indirect talks between his government and that of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are based on "Rabin's pledge."