Two days after twin attacks by Druze residents of Israel on ambulances carrying wounded Syrians left one dead and another severely hurt, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Wednesday that medical assistance will continue to be offered to victims arriving at Israel’s border.
Ya’alon also reiterated that Israel will maintain a policy of non-involvement in the Syrian civil war, despite calls by Druze leaders in the Jewish state to defend or absorb residents of a number of Syrian-Druze towns that have come under fire by jihadi organizations.
“We understand the feelings of Israeli Druze and their worry for the fate of their brothers in Syria. We will not allow ourselves to be dragged into a war that is not our own,” Ya’alon told a cyber-security confab at Tel Aviv University.
“We will continue providing humanitarian aid to children, women and wounded arriving at our borders because these are our values. No other party will determine our policy,” he added.
Israeli and Golan Heights Druze have called upon the Israeli government to cease offering cross-border medical aid to spillover casualties from the civil war, after a Channel 2 report (Hebrew) last week portrayed wounded Syrians in Israeli hospitals telling viewers they would take up arms against the Druze when they return to the war-torn state.
Druze in Syria are loyal to the Assad regime and routinely battle alongside Hezbollah fighters against Sunni jihadists groups such as the Islamic State and the Nusra Front, as well as more moderate factions such as the Free Syria Army.
Nine people from two Druze villages in northern Israel were arrested by police overnight Tuesday and into Wednesday on suspicion they had been involved in the ambulance attacks — four from the Galilee town of Hurfeish and five from the Golan Heights village of Majdal Shams.
The suspects will be brought before the Nazareth Magistrate’s Court for a hearing later Wednesday.
The attackers in both incidents apparently believed the ambulances were carrying members of the Nusra Front, though the IDF denied it provides medical treatment to Islamist rebels and insisted it only treats injured civilians.
The two attacks on the ambulances were roundly condemned by Israel’s leadership, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowing to catch those who “took the law into their own hands.”
The Jewish state 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, according to the IDF.
Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.