Syria’s official news agency praised a mob of Golan Heights Druze residents who on Monday evening attacked an IDF ambulance transporting Syrian war injured and killed one man, calling them “heroes.”
In a Tuesday report, the mouthpiece of the Assad regime, the Syrian Arab News Agency, claimed that the wounded on board were al-Nusra Front jihadists and that the Jewish state routinely provides military, medical and logistical support to Islamist groups fighting in Syria.
“Two terrorists from al-Nusra Front were killed Monday when heroes of the occupied Golan confronted a Zionist ambulance which was transporting them to receive treatment at one of the Israeli entity’s hospitals,” the report said.
“Following the incident, locals of Majdal Shams village took to street denouncing Israeli occupation entity’s logistics and military support to armed terrorists,” it continued, referring to a Druze Golan Heights village under Israeli control since 1967.
The IDF vigorously denied claims that it permits jihadists entry to Israel for medical treatment and said that those on board the ambulance were civilians.
However an IDF spokesperson noted that background screening for injured people arriving at the border for treatment may be difficult because no “filter” exists to ensure that the injured are only civilians.
“The IDF doesn’t have a filter at the border fence. The moment an injured person [arrives], the State of Israel opens its gates and [treats him],” IDF spokesman Motti Almoz said Tuesday, but added that “the claim that we aid the al-Nusra Front is simply incorrect.”
On Monday evening, two Syrians who were already in serious condition were being transported to hospital by an IDF ambulance after crossing the border into Israel near Majdal Shams.
A mob of people from the town, apparently thinking Syrian jihadists were on board, attacked the ambulance, which was being escorted by an army jeep. The convoy managed to escape to the nearby Jewish village of Neve Ativ, but the mob followed and overtook it.
After taking control of the ambulance, the mob killed one of the wounded and exacerbated the wounds of the second — who was later transported to Haifa’s Rambam hospital in critical condition. Two accompanying IDF soldiers were also injured in the incident, and one of them was evacuated to a hospital in light condition.
The attack on the military ambulance was the second such attack in a day — an earlier incident in the Israeli-Druze village of Hurfeish ended with no injuries.
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 — including Majdal Shams — which were captured by Israel in 1967, remain outwardly loyal to the Syrian regime and have mostly refused to accept Israeli citizenship or serve in the IDF.
Locals of Occupied #Golan confront Israeli Ambulance, kill two terrorists23 June، 2015Occupied Syrian Golan, #SANA-…
Almoz noted that a distinction had to be made between Israel’s Druze community at large — “our flesh and blood” — and those “handful of people who decide to take the law into their own hands.”
Top government officials and Israel’s Druze leadership also vehemently condemned the incident on Tuesday, with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon dubbing it a “lynching,” and vowing to bring the perpetrators to justice.
“The lynching that took place in the Golan Heights, [as part of] the attack on the ambulance, killed one man and wounded three, including IDF soldiers and officers. This is an extremely grave incident that will be dealt with a heavy hand,” Ya’alon said.
The leader of Israel’s Druze, Sheikh Moafaq Tarif, attributed the attack to “outlaws,” but said that the the Druze community had become “extremely inflamed” in recent days by a Channel 2 report (Hebrew), in which Syrian-war injured seeking treatment in Israel were quoted as saying they would seek to harm members of the Druze faith after recuperating.
“This is not our way and we’re hurt over what happened. This is a criminal act carried out by outlaws,” Tarif told Army Radio Tuesday.
“I call on everyone to remain calm and to act responsibly. This is a testing time for us all. The Druze faith, the Druze values and the Druze customs forbid harming the wounded. We vehemently condemn incidents like these,” he said.
Deputy Minister of Regional Cooperation Ayoub Kara, a Druze member of the Likud party, condemned the act and asserted that the IDF does not permit entry to rebels from jihadist organizations.
“I strongly condemn the damage to the ambulance and the IDF soldiers. The Druze never look for provocations. It’s not part of their agenda,” Kara said.
Marissa Newman contributed to this report.