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Israel grants US Genie exploration rights in Golan Heights

The award raised little protest in Syria, which is enmeshed in a bitter and protracted civil war. But, as Conal Urquhart discovers, Tel Aviv's decision may have far-reaching consequences

The Golan Heights is dotted with the remains of war. Its slopes are covered with mine fields and the rusted hulks of armoured vehicles. The security forces that police it remain on high alert as the Syrian civil war threatens to infiltrate Israeli-controlled territory. Forty miles away in Damascus, president Bashar al-Assad is fighting an insurgency thatthreatens to overrun his capital. He is rarely seen and his hold on power appears precarious. When Israel announced in February it had granted an oil exploration licence to US firm Genie Oil and Gas to drill in the Golan, which Israel has occupied since 1967, Assad said nothing, his government protested weakly and no other country spoke out i

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