Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was present at the White House to sign the document. In Gaza, Israel responds to a rocket launch allegedly by the Hamas group

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday signed a decree officially recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, justifying the measure by the “aggressive actions” of Iran and “terrorist” groups against Israel.

“This is something that should have been done many decades ago,” Trump said as he signed the presidential proclamation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House. The United States thus becomes the first country to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over an area that Syria has occupied since the Six Day War of 1967, and which was annexed in 1981 in a gesture that the population rejected and the international community did not recognize.

Trump said that “the aggressive actions of Iran and terrorist groups continue to turn the Golan into a launching pad (for attacks) against Israel. Netanyahu celebrated as “historic” the formalization of that measure, which the president of the United States already advanced last Thursday in a tweet and which comes two weeks before the general elections in Israel, in which the current prime minister is playing his role.

“It was very important for me to come here to the White House. Israel has been fortunate to have many friends inside the Oval Office for many years. But Israel has never had a better friend than you,” Netanyahu said.

Both Trump and Netanyahu referred to the rocket fired in recent hours from Gaza, which destroyed a house and injured seven civilians, including three minors.

“Israel has the absolute right to defend itself,” said Trump, who expressed his “condolences” for Hamas’ “horrendous attack” and said he planned to talk to Netanyahu about “defensive, and perhaps (also) offensive,” issues. The Israeli leader stated that his government is “responding forcefully to this senseless aggression,” shortly after the Israeli Armed Forces announced that they had launched a wave of bombardments against targets of the Islamist Hamas movement in Gaza.

Recognition by the United States is outside the law and could worsen the situation in the Middle East, said María Zajárova, spokeswoman for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, today. “This could lead to a new twist in tensions in the Middle East,” Zajárova told a radio station.

The Syrian government pointed out that this is a “flagrant attack” on its sovereignty. “In a blatant attack on Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the president of the United States recognized the annexation of the Syrian Golan,” said a Foreign Ministry source, quoted by the state news agency SANA.

Attacks in Gaza

The Israeli army launched attacks in the Gaza Strip on Monday in retaliation for a rocket fired from that enclave that left seven people injured north of Tel Aviv at a highly complex time, AFP reported.

Israeli helicopters launched at least three attacks in the western Gaza Strip against a base of the armed wing of the Islamist Hamas movement that runs the Palestinian enclave under blockade, witnesses said. This operation took place when the Israeli prime minister arrived at the White House.

In Israel, the Army said it had “begun attacking Hamas terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip” in response to a rocket launch allegedly by Hamas. The group, which controls the enclave, denied responsibility for the shooting. A senior team official assured that the rocket could have departed by mistake or bad weather. “No one in the resistance movements, including Hamas, has an interest in firing rockets from Gaza at the enemy,” he said, showing a willingness to avoid further conflict.

Islamic Jihad, Gaza’s second largest armed group, warned that its reaction would be equal to Israel’s “aggression”, so an escalation is feared.

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