President Donald Trump has signed a proclamation recognising Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, reversing more than a half-century of US policy.
Standing alongside Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, Mr Trump made formal a move he announced in a tweet last week.
The president said it was time for the US to take the step after 52 years of Israeli control of the strategic highlands on the border with Syria.
Mr Netanyahu had pressed for such recognition for months.
Mr Trump’s action on Monday gives him a political boost weeks before what is expected to be a close Israeli election.
Israel captured the Golan from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war but its sovereignty over the territory is not recognised by the international community.
“Today, aggressive action by Iran and terrorist groups in southern Syria, including Hezbollah, continue to make the Golan Heights a potential launching ground for attacks against Israel — very violent attacks,” Mr Trump said.
“This should have been done numerous presidents ago,” Mr Trump said.
The two leaders met as the Israeli military was striking Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip in response to a rocket that hit a house north of Tel Aviv and wounded seven people.
“Israel is responding forcefully to this wanton aggression,” said Mr Netanyahu, who planned to return to Israel to manage the attack following his meeting with Mr Trump and other US officials, including Vice President Mike Pence.
He added: “Israel will not tolerate this. I will not tolerate it.”
In a speech earlier Monday, Mr Pence said the rocket attack “proves that Hamas is not a partner for peace”.
Mr Pence told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that “Hamas is a terrorist organisation that seeks the destruction of Israel, and the United States will never negotiate with terrorist Hamas”.
Syria reacted angrily to the signing ceremony, saying the decision made Washington “the main enemy” of Arabs.
Damascus called the US decision a “slap” to the international community.
Syria’s foreign ministry branded the decision a “blatant aggression” on its own sovereignty and territorial integrity, adding that the US move represents the “highest level of contempt for international legitimacy”.