A number of Druze residents of the Israeli Golan Heights burst through the separation fence with Syria on Friday afternoon in order to reach the Druze village of Hader, where a jihadist killed nine people in a suicide bombing earlier in the day, the army said.
Israeli troops chased after the group of approximately 10 Druze men, who had made it dozens of meters past the border fence, and returned them, the military said.
Though they breached the fence, the men remained in Israeli territory, never crossing into Syria, the army said.
Dozens more rallied near the border fence, also threatening to cross into Syria in order to fight alongside their families and coreligionists.
“This behavior is a serious violation of the law, and a life-threatening act,” the IDF said in a statement.
“The IDF asks all civilians to refrain from approaching or crossing the fence. Events are [being] monitored and under [the] control of security forces,” the military said.
National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat also met with the head of Israel’s Druze community, Mowafaq Tarif, and assured him that Israel would not allow jihadists to take over the Syrian village.
Tarif also met with the head of the IDF’s Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick, in order to hear about the army’s plans to protect Hader, the military said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in London on a state visit, released a statement of support for the Druze.
“We will safeguard our borders, our southern border and our northern border. And we recognize the amity we feel toward our brothers, the Druze,” he said.
Additional IDF troops and police were also called to the Golan Heights in order to prevent further attempts by Druze residents to cross into Syria.
Roads in the area were also blocked off.
After the suicide bombing on Friday morning, the IDF released a rare statement promising to “support the [Hader] village residents and work to prevent any harm or the occupation of the village, out of a commitment to the Druze population.”
IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis also denied a claim by the Syrian government that Israel was involved in or supported the suicide bombing in Hader.
This statement was out of the ordinary as Israel generally maintains that it will not get involved in the fighting in Syria, unless one of its “red lines” is violated, namely that it is targeted first or if advanced weapons are being transported through Syrian territory to the Hezbollah terrorist group.
One added complication is Hader’s support for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, who is allied with Iran, Israel’s nemesis, and Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah.
Israel’s commitments to the Druze are rooted in the loyalty of the Israeli Druze community to the state, including the Arabic-speaking minority’s insistence on participating in the military draft.
The IDF statement said the decision was reached after a meeting by top military brass to assess the escalating situation across the border.
Syrian state news agency SANA said a jihadist fighter detonated the bomb Friday morning on the outskirts of Hader, in the northern countryside of Quneitra near the Israeli border.
“A suicide bomber from Al-Nusra Front detonated a car bomb in the midst of the homes of citizens on the outskirts of Hader, killing nine people and injuring at least 23,” the agency said.
Al-Nusra Front is the former name of the jihadist group that was once Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria and is now known as the Fateh al-Sham Front.
“In the aftermath of the terrorist attack, terrorist groups carried out a heavy attack on Hader, and army units and the Popular Defense units (pro-government militias) clashed with the attackers,” SANA added.
SANA said the toll was expected to rise because a number of those wounded in the bombing were in serious condition and the ongoing assault on the town made it difficult to remove the injured to safety.
Spillover fire from the Friday morning clashes also lightly injured a resident of the Israeli Druze town of Majdal Shams, the IDF said in a statement. The man was injured by small arms fire from across the border and was treated by paramedics at the scene.
The IDF’s statement promising to support Hader reflects ongoing pressure on Israeli leaders from the Druze communities in the Galilee and on the Golan to help their coreligionists across the border who are often caught in the crossfire between Sunni rebels and Alawite and Shiite pro-government forces.