A lawmaker in the ruling coalition on Sunday accused Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman of supporting an offshoot of al-Qaeda in Syria during a recent “merciless” assault against Druze on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.
Druze MK Akram Hasson of Kulanu said Liberman provided the Fateh al-Sham Front (formerly al-Nusra Front) with protection, logistical support and possibly with “advanced technology” during its attacks on the regime-controlled town of Hader.
“Al-Nusra Front is attacking the Druze town of Hader under the cover and protection of Defense Minister Liberman. We shall not rest until… Liberman ceases his support for al-Nusra against the Druze,” Hasson wrote on Facebook.
Hasson said the militant group began the “merciless” and “indiscriminate” shelling of Hader, killing dozens of people.
According to the MK, Israel recently targeted army positions belonging to the Syrian regime in order to boost the chances of the jihadist group.
Hasson also claimed, based on information allegedly provided by an eyewitness in the Druze town, that the group possesses “advanced technology” that tipped the balance of power in its favor. He did not specify what this technology was.
“This strategy and these orders come from Liberman alone,” Hasson wrote.
The defense minister’s spokesperson, Tzachi Moshe, said he would not comment on the accusation.
The lawmaker also called for emergency talks between MKs and Druze religious leaders to prevent a “massacre” of the Druze in Hader.
The Syrian side of the Golan Heights has been the site of intense fighting in recent years between Assad forces and al-Nusra.
In June 2015, tensions between Israeli Druze and the Israeli government became inflamed after al-Nusra killed more than 20 members of Syria‘s Druze community. This incident sparked weeks of protests in Israel calling for the IDF to prevent more Druze bloodshed in Syria.
The protests culminated in the an attack on an IDF ambulance transporting wounded Syrian fighters for medical care. One of the Syrians died in the attack.
The Druze assailants claimed the IDF was transporting al-Nusra members in the ambulance. After the incident, the IDF denied it was giving medical aid to the Islamist fighters, but an IDF officer told Haaretz newspaper soon afterwards that al-Nusra fighters had likely been treated in Israel.
The IDF currently refuses to confirm or deny who it is treating, only saying that it does not discriminate against those in need of medical assistance.
Israel routinely takes in and treats Syrians injured in the civil war, and the IDF has set up a field hospital along the border, though it transports more serious cases to hospitals elsewhere in the country.
At the end of July, Israel agreed to allow the civilian aid organization Amaliah, run by Moti Kahana, to provide medical, educational and food aid to Syrians with the IDF working as an intermediary.
The Druze, a mystic sect that broke away from Shiite Islam in the 11th century, are ideologically loyal to the countries in which they reside. Israel’s Druze speak Hebrew and many serve in the IDF.
However, residents of the four Druze villages in the Golan Heights, which was captured by Israel in 1967, remain outwardly loyal to the Syrian regime and have mostly refused to accept Israeli citizenship.
While Israel has taken pains to avoid entering the Syrian civil war, it also regularly strikes at Syrian regime positions to retaliate for errant fire that hits inside its territory or to stop weapons transfers to the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group.
Last week, the Israeli Air Force said it struck Syrian artillery positions in the Golan Heights in response to projectiles fired from Syria that struck the Jewish state. Israel says it holds the Syrian government responsible for any breach of its border, even if the fire originated from a rebel militant group.