Israel’s defense chief: Help for Syrian rebels is exchange for Druze safety

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon told reporters that Israel has been providing humanitarian aid to Syrian rebels in exchange for the safety of Druze Arabs.

The medical aid has been conditioned on the rebel fighting not getting too close to the border fence between the Israeli and Syrian sides of the Golan Heights and that the local Druze population is not harmed, Yaalon said at a briefing on Monday.

He called Druze attacks last week on Israeli ambulances carrying Syrian fighters “irresponsible.” In one of the attacks, an injured fighter was dragged from the ambulance and beaten to death. The Druze-Israeli attackers believed the men were members of the rebel forces from the Al-Nusra Front, a branch of al-Qaida in Syria that has harmed the Druze in Syria.

Israel has primarily dealt with non-jihadist rebels, a Defense Ministry official said, according to Reuters.

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Israel treats wounded from the civil war in the field and at local hospitals regardless of what side they are fighting for. More than 1,600 wounded Syrians have been treated in Israeli hospitals during the civil war, according to the IDF.

“Our general policy is that we are not getting involved in the Syrian war,” Yaalon said.

He added: “We will not tolerate any violation of our sovereignty or even accidental fire from Syria into our territory. We will act immediately to strike at those who plant explosives near the border or fire at us.”

Israel has fired on Syrian positions on the Golan in retaliation for rocket fire believed to be part of the ongoing four-year civil war that has landed in Israeli territory.

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