In a most severe incident on Monday night, members of the Druze community living in Israel lynched two wounded Syrians who were being evacuated to an Israeli hospital. The attackers assumed that the victims were Islamic terrorists.
Hundreds of Druze, residents of the Golan Heights in northern Israel at the border with Syria, attacked an IDF ambulance carrying two injured Syrians and beat one of them to death. The assailants suspected the victims of being Islamic terrorists wounded in the Syrian civil war and seeking medical treatment in Israel.
The incident demonstrates the spiraling anger within Israel’s Druze community — which has been pushing for the Israeli government to do more to help Druze Syrians caught up in that country’s vicious fighting.
Two IDF soldiers in the ambulance were also lightly wounded. The surviving Syrian was evacuated to an Israeli hospital in critical condition.
It was the second incident in 24 hours in which Druze villagers attacked an ambulance that they believed was transporting injured Syrian terrorists.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday harshly condemned the attack.
“We will not allow anyone to take the law into their own hands. We will not allow anyone to disrupt Israeli soldiers in their missions,” he said. “We will locate those who carried out this mob killing and bring them to justice. We are a country of law and are not a part of the anarchy that is spreading around us.”
An official document authored by the Ministry of Health in October 2014 reveals that Israel has spent NIS 32,487,415 (about $9,000,000) since the beginning of 2013 on the treatment of wounded Syrians seeking medical treatment in Israel. The expenses have since climbed. Over 1,200 Syrians have benefited from Israeli care and funds.
Close Bonds with Israel, Concern for Syrian Brethren
The Druze, members of a religious sect that began as an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam, are among Israel’s most loyal citizens, and they serve in its military. They are also increasingly worried about the plight of their brethren in Syria. Earlier this month the al-Nusra front, al-Qaeda‘s branch in Syria, killed as many as 20 Druze citizens.
Druze residents of Israel have also been angered by the Israeli government’s policy of extending medical aid to injured Syrian rebels, assuming that some of those treated were terrorists. The Israeli military did not identify whether the injured Syrians in the ambulance on Monday were rebel fighters or civilians, but the IDF has denied treating Islamic terrorists in the past. Israeli media on Tuesday reported that the injured Syrians were rebel fighters.
Israel’s estimated 130,000 Druze live mostly in the north of the country, where some have taken to the streets, demanding more decisive action to help the Syrian Druze. Some demanded that Israel provide weapons and air support; others have proposed that thousands of Syrian Druze be allowed to take shelter inside Israel, if necessary, or that they themselves be allowed to cross the border and fight on behalf of the Syrian Druze.
The Israeli government insists it will not allow the Druze to be massacred but has so far not taken any overt major action. Many Druze in Syria are supporters of the Assad regime, and Israel fears the security risks entailed with aiding and arming them, actions which could prove detrimental to Israel in the future.
The Druze leadership in Israel condemned the pair of attacks Monday and convened Tuesday for an emergency meeting to address the growing anger in their community.
The Druze have a particular tight bond with Jews that dates much farther back than Israel’s War of Independence in 1948. The Druze revere Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, and Jethro’s tomb in northern Israel is one of their most sacred sites. In recent days the community has enjoyed widespread solidarity from other Israelis, although that has partially been replaced by outrage after the violent attacks on the military ambulances.
By: AP and United with Israel Staff