'The US state department has referred to the Syrian Golan Heights and the Palestinian territories as "Israeli-controlled", a move that may signal a break from Washington's longstanding refusal to recognise Israeli sovereignty over areas it has occupied and unilaterally annexed.
In a human rights report released on Wednesday, the department failed to refer to the Golan Heights and the West Bank as occupied territories.
That points to a "continuation of the US administration's hostile approach to Palestinian people", said senior Palestinian Authority official Nabil Abu Rudeineh.
He said that the US designation does not change the fact that the Golan Heights remains an Israeli-occupied, Arab territory under international law and UN Security Council resolutions, Palestinian news agency Wafa reported on Wednesday.
In past years, the state department described the southern Syrian territory that overlooks the Sea of the Galilee, as "Israeli occupied", a designation that was dropped from this year's edition of the report.
The document also suggests that the entire city of Jerusalem is a part of Israel.
"This section includes Israel, including Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights," the preface to the report's Israel chapter reads.
A state department official, Michael Kozak, sought to downplay the significance of the report's phrasing, saying the designation of territories as occupied is a "legal status issue", not a human rights matter.'
Read more: US drops 'Israeli-occupied' from Syria's Golan Heights and Palestinian territories