National Security

Israel to Continue Providing Medical Assistance to Wounded Syrians Despite Lynching by Mob

Israeli defense minister: ‘We will provide humanitarian aid to wounded arriving at our borders’

Israeli security forces stand guard around an ambulance which was attacked at the Golan Heights
Israeli security forces stand guard around an ambulance which was attacked at the Golan Heights / AP

JERUSALEM—Despite the lynching in the Golan Heights of a wounded Syrian rebel by a mob that dragged him out of a military ambulance, Israel will continue to provide medical care to wounded Syrians brought to the Golan border, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Wednesday.

"These are our values," he said. "We will provide humanitarian aid to wounded arriving at our borders. No other party will determine our policy." Druze elders likewise condemned the attack on the ambulance.

In the incident Monday, scores of Druze, who are residents of villages on the Israel-occupied Golan Heights, intercepted the ambulance as it was on its way to a hospital in Israel proper. The mob attacked a military ambulance, killing a Syrian rebel. They also roughed up two Israeli soldiers escorting the wounded and dragged the two Syrians out. One of them they beat to death. The other they believed was already dead, but he survived.

Israel’s 130,000-person Druze community is concerned about the fate of 600,000 brethren in Syria who have been loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. The retreat of the Syrian army under pressure from rebel groups has removed the sect’s major protection in a country riven by civil war.

Last month, 20 residents of a Druze village in northern Syria were killed by Islamic fighters from the al-Nusra Front, increasing concern among Israelis. Since then, Druze militants have called on Israel to stop treating wounded Syrian fighters arriving at the border, particularly if they are from the al-Nusra Front.

Some Israeli officials have denied treating Islamic fighters but others have said that when wounded are deposited at border field hospitals no inquiry is made about their background. Most of the wounded are treated at the border, but more serious cases are transferred to hospitals inside Israel.

Unlike Druze residents in Israel proper, who serve in the army and border police, residents of the four Druze villages on the Golan Heights profess loyalty to the Assad regime. Hours before the ambush of the ambulance by Golan Druze, another military ambulance bearing Syrian wounded was intercepted by protestors in a Druze village inside Israel. Protestors broke a window, but no one was injured.

Nine Druze were arrested by police Wednesday for alleged involvement in the two incidents. More arrests are expected.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who met with Druze leaders Wednesday, said Israel will not be sucked into "the anarchy taking place all around us." He met with the Israeli Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Moafaq Tarif, who said the lynch was a violation of Druze tradition.

"This is not how we have been educated," Tarif said.

The Druze, a sect which is an offshoot of Islam, is scattered throughout the region and are loyal to the regime of the nations in which they live. While some Druze militants in Israel have called on the government to assist Druze in Syria if they are threatened, elders of the community said the last thing the Syrian Druze would want is to be identified as allies of Israel.