Hundreds of Golan Heights residents and environmentalists from the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel protested on Feb. 17 outside the Afek Oil & Gas facility north of Nahal El Al, where exploratory oil drilling began the previous night. Afek, a subsidiary of US-based Genie Energy, won Israeli government approval for a three-year lease to drill 10 wells on 400 square kilometers of the Golan Heights in September. Drilling was planned for mid-January but was delayed due to a court order won by environmental opponents. The Golan Heights is home to Lake Tiberias, Israel's main water source. Genie Energy is run by Effi Eitam, a former right-wing Israeli cabinet minister who currently resides in Golan Heights.
The Golan Heights, taken from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War, was annexed by Israel in 1981. Following the Six-Day War, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 242, calling for Israeli withdrawal from territories occupied in 1967, including the Golan Heights. (Jerusalem Post, Middle East Monitor, Feb. 17)