Druze protest Israeli elections in occupied Golan Heights
Hundreds of Druze protested in the occupied Golan Heights on Tuesday as Israeli municipal elections took place in the territory for the first time since Israel's 1967 occupation.
Israel went to the polls on Tuesday to elect mayors and city councils, with local elections held in the Golan Heights for the first time in 51 years.
Israel occupied the Golan Heights in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed the territory in 1981 - a move that is not internationally recognized.
Since the annexation, Israel has appointed representatives to local councils in the Golan's four Druze villages.
This year, a group of young lawyers from the area appealed to Israel's Supreme Court for a say in choosing their leaders.
Their petition succeeded, paving the way for the first-ever elections on 30 October.
But the vote was seen as highly controversial, as many Druze who feel connected to Syria fear it will help Israel legitimise its control over the occupied plateau.
The vote has pitted community elders who pledge fealty to Syria and activists opposed to Israel's occupation against those with looser ties to their ancestral homeland who seek to have a stake in how their own communities are managed.
Several hundred protesters in the village of Majdal Shams, some carrying Syrian flags, temporarily blocked a polling centre as police sought to maintain calm, an AFP correspondent reported.
There had been calls to boycott the election during campaigning and a string of candidates pulled out.
Polling was to occur in four Druze villages in the Golan, though it was called off in two because there were no candidates.
In Yarka, a separate Druze village in northern Israel outside of the Golan, police said two polling stations were closed after a stun grenade was thrown at one of them, lightly wounding 10 people.
Some 20,000 Israeli settlers live in more than 30 settlements in the occupied Golan Heights, and the territory has become a centrepiece of Israel's tourist and agricultural industries.
The majority of the 23,000 Druze in the occupied Golan have refused to become Israeli citizens, instead remaining "permanent residents" of Israel.
Israel has long lobbied world powers to recognise its annexation of the Golan Heights but even its closest allies have so far resisted the move.
Agencies contributed to this report.