At Syrian border, IDF seeks closer contact with civilians on other side
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At Syrian border, IDF seeks closer contact with civilians on other side

Army establishes liaison unit to help coordinate medical aid and keep watch on war-torn areas where the Assad regime holds no sway

Archive photo: An Israeli army tank is seen stationed near the Golan Heights village of Majdal Shams, March 19, 2014. (AFP/Jalaa Marey)
Archive photo: An Israeli army tank is seen stationed near the Golan Heights village of Majdal Shams, March 19, 2014. (AFP/Jalaa Marey)

The IDF is establishing a special liaison unit to manage its growing contacts with Syrian civilians living across Israel’s northeastern border in the war-ravaged nation.

The Syrian regime of Bashar Assad holds almost no sway on the country’s Golan Heights perimeter with Israel, with large sections of the border held by various rebel and jihadi factions, including the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front and Islamic State-affiliated Yarmouk Martyrs’ Brigades.

Since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, which has claimed the lives of at least 250,000 people and displaced as many as half the country’s population, Israel’s army has treated some 2,000 Syrians who arrived wounded at the border fence.

Israel has also tracked — and occasionally responded to with airstrikes — a growing Iranian and Hezbollah presence on the Syrian Golan, especially in certain Druze villages bordering Israel, and has worked to protect Druze communities in southern Syria who are threatened by the many-sided fighting.

An IDF drone landing in an airfield on the Golan Heights, January 20, 2015. (Jack Guez/AFP)
An IDF drone landing in an airfield on the Golan Heights, January 20, 2015. (Jack Guez/AFP)

According to Channel 2 television, the new unit is modeled on the Yakal, the IDF’s liaison unit in southern Lebanon during Israel’s military presence in the country that ended with Israel’s withdrawal in 2000. Yakal coordinated IDF and allied South Lebanese Army operations, and served as the army’s interface with civilians living in areas controlled by the IDF.

The new unit is likely to help facilitate easier access to Israeli medical facilities for wounded Syrians, as well as help the IDF keep a closer watch on developments across the border.

Smoke rises following an explosion in Syria's Quneitra province as Syrian rebels clash with President Bashar Assad’s forces, seen from the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights (AP/Ariel Schalit, File)
Smoke rises following an explosion in Syria’s Quneitra province as Syrian rebels clash with President Bashar Assad’s forces, seen from the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights (AP/Ariel Schalit, File)

With the exception of occasional reported airstrikes against Hezbollah weapons smuggling convoys and other similar targets, Israel has maintained neutrality in the war on its northern border. The IDF is said to coordinate its strikes on the Assad-allied terror group with Russian forces fighting alongside Hezbollah to prop up Assad’s rule.

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