Medical gloves and material are seen lying on the floor in the Israeli settlement of Neve Ativ, near Majdal Shams on the Golan Heights, on June 23, 2015, at the scene where two wounded Syrians were attacked, leaving one dead
Medical gloves and material are seen lying on the floor in the Israeli settlement of Neve Ativ, near Majdal Shams on the Golan Heights, on June 23, 2015, at the scene where two wounded Syrians were attacked, leaving one dead © Jalaa Marey - AFP
Medical gloves and material are seen lying on the floor in the Israeli settlement of Neve Ativ, near Majdal Shams on the Golan Heights, on June 23, 2015, at the scene where two wounded Syrians were attacked, leaving one dead
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Jalaa Marey
Last updated: January 1, 1970

Israel vows crackdown after 'lynching' of wounded Syrian

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged Tuesday to track down Druze in the occupied Golan Heights who fatally assaulted a wounded Syrian on his way to hospital in Israel.

"This is very severe," Netanyahu said of the incident. "We will find those who carried out the lynching and bring them to justice."

Monday's attack, roundly condemned by local Druze leaders, came as the community feared for the fate of its brethren in Syria after rebels there attacked them.

Two Syrian men were being taken to hospital by Israeli military ambulance late Monday when dozens of Druze in the town of Majdal Shams stoned the vehicle, forcing it to stop, dragged the men out and beat them.

"As a consequence of the attack one of the passengers died and another was critically injured," a police statement said.

An Israeli soldier and an officer in the ambulance were also assaulted.

Police did not identify the Syrians or say what their medical condition had been before the attack.

Israel has a policy of giving medical assistance to wounded Syrians who reach Israeli lines.

Syrian Druze are traditional allies of President Bashar al-Assad, and the rioters on Monday probably believed the men in the ambulance were rebels fighting to unseat him.

The Druze are a secretive offshoot of Shiite Islam. Officials say there are 110,000 of them in northern Israel and another 20,000 in the Israeli-occupied Golan.

While the Druze of Israel are citizens and subject to the same military draft as Jews, the vast majority of those on the Golan have refused to take Israeli nationality.

The spiritual leader of the Israeli Druze, Sheikh Muafak Tarif, told AFP that an emergency meeting of religious and secular Druze leaders "strongly condemned" the ambulance attack, calling it "a deplorable act committed by outlaws".

"The Druze religion, values and tradition prohibit inflicting any harm on wounded people," he added, and said leaders condemning the attack included Golan Druze.

But there was a different, more angry, tone in Majdal Shams on Tuesday.

"The Druze of Syria, this is our family," Tarek Awdt, 27 told AFP in the town square.

On June 10 at least 20 Syrian Druze were killed in an unprecedented shoot-out with Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front in northwestern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said

"What happened yesterday was not an attack against Israel, but against Al-Nusra," Awdt said. "We will fight to prevent that happening here."

- "Got what they deserved" -

The Syrians attacked on Monday "got what they deserved," said Souad Fahad al-Din, 33, a saleswoman in Majdal Shams.

"It should have been expected," she said. "Israel has no right to treat them and then send them back there to carry on killing."

Israel seized 1,200 square kilometres (460 square miles) of the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Tensions spiralled in Druze areas of northern Israel and the Golan when rebels surrounded a government-held Druze village on the Syria side last week.

Syria's official news agency SANA said the two men being transported Monday were "terrorists from Al-Nusra Front".

Syrian authorities label all those fighting Assad "terrorists", and make no distinction between jihadist groups such as Al-Nusra and other internationally backed forces.

Israel said the men attacked on Monday were civilians.

"The claim that we're helping Al-Nusra Front is incorrect," military spokesman Brigadier General Moti Almoz told army radio.

Damascus regularly accuses Israel of backing the regime's opponents.

The Jewish state says it is not involved in the internal Syrian fighting, but could not rule out the possibility that some of those given medical care are rebels.

"We don't (give medical care) according to race or colour or religion; rather we give humanitarian life-saving help to whomever reaches the border and asks for help," army spokesman Major Arye Shalicar told AFP.

Shalicar said Israel had treated more than 1,600 Syrians in the past three years.

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