Two Israeli Druze plead guilty in killing of wounded Syrian fighter
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Two Israeli Druze plead guilty in killing of wounded Syrian fighter

Golan Heights residents attacked ambulance bringing injured fighters into Israel for medical care

An IDF ambulance that was attacked by Druze Israeli residents in the Golan Heights as it ferried Syrian war casualties into Israel for medical treatment, June 22, 2015. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)
An IDF ambulance that was attacked by Druze Israeli residents in the Golan Heights as it ferried Syrian war casualties into Israel for medical treatment, June 22, 2015. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

Two residents of the Druze village of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights pleaded guilty Sunday to manslaughter and aggravated assault for their roles in a deadly attack last year on wounded Syrian fighters being treated in Israel.

Under the terms of an agreement reached with prosecutors, 22-year-old Amar Abu Salah pleaded guilty to manslaughter in a Nazareth court for the death of a Syrian fighter, whose ambulance was attacked by a mob as he and another man were transferred for medical treatment. The deal with prosecutors also saw 49-year-old Bashira Mahmoud plead guilty to aggravated assault.

According to police, a crowd initially blocked the road in front of the ambulance in the June 2015 incident, but the driver managed to get past the roadblock and reach the town of Neve Ativ. There the rioters broke the ambulance’s windshield, pulled the wounded men out and beat them with wooden planks.

Munzir Halil was killed and the wounds of another Syrian fighter were exacerbated, in an incident that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu termed a “lynching” at the time.

The two Israeli soldiers accompanying the wounded Syrians were also lightly wounded.

According to Channel 2, the plea bargain was struck due to the fact that the prosecution only had video evidence that was not strong enough to support a murder charge.

Mahmoud had told Channel 2 news last year that she was at the riot over the ambulance, but denied taking part in the attack.

“I wasn’t next to the ambulance, I am against killing and against violence,” she said then. “We have supported our people through the years of war and we haven’t said a word. They kill Druze children, arrest and beat Druze men.”

The Syrian government praised the attack, claiming the wounded men were “two terrorists from Jabhat al-Nusra” — a rebel group battling Bashar Assad’s army on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. Druze have accused the group of attacking their brethren during the fighting.

While Druze living in Israel speak Hebrew and many serve in the IDF, residents of the four Druze villages in the Golan Heights, captured by Israel in 1967, remain outwardly loyal to the Syrian regime and have mostly refused to accept Israeli citizenship.

Israel routinely takes in and treats Syrians injured in the civil war, and the Israel Defense Forces has set up a field hospital along the border, though it transports more serious cases to hospitals elsewhere in the country, without prejudice to which side of the civil war the injured was fighting on.

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