IDF medics seen treating Syrian rebels in new video

Soldiers collect wounded men from the border at night, administer initial treatment and take them to hospital

Still photo from a Vice News video of Israeli soldiers treating wounded Syrian rebels, December 2014. (YouTube: screen capture)
Still photo from a Vice News video of Israeli soldiers treating wounded Syrian rebels, December 2014. (YouTube: screen capture)

The Israeli army is shown providing medical assistance to wounded Syrian rebels in a new video issued Wednesday by Vice News.

In the video, military medics in the Golan Heights are seen tending to three Syrians in a military ambulance, assessing their condition and providing initial treatment before moving them to a hospital.

The soldiers collect the injured men under cover of night as they are transfered to Israeli hands from across the border. They suffer from various injuries apparently sustained in fighting with the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and appear to be in some pain.

The Israeli medical staff seem to do their best to make the three comfortable as they try to identify their injuries and their causes. One is said to have been shot, another possibly hit by shrapnel.

It is unclear which rebel group the three men belong to, and Vice reporter Simon Ostrovsky notes that they could very well be members of organizations hostile to Israel, such as the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front.

Reports recently presented to the United Nations Security Council have revealed numerous interactions between Israeli troops and rebel groups on the Israel-Syrian border over the past year and a half.

UN observers in the Golan Heights meticulously detailed instances of contact between IDF soldiers and rebels, including Syrians being sent into Israel for medical treatment, and the transfer of items and containers, according to records maintained by the UN disengagement force in the Golan demilitarized zone.

Most of the dispatches report on cross-border incidents, though several also detail numbers of people sent from Syrian fighting into Israel for medical treatment.

“During periods of heavy engagement with Syrian forces, [rebel groups] transferred 89 wounded persons across the ceasefire line to the IDF,” a May 2014 dispatch reads, adding later that “the IDF handed 19 treated and two deceased individuals” back to the insurgents.

On another occasion, also dated May 2014, UN monitors observed IDF troops “handing over two boxes to armed members of the opposition” on the Syrian side.

A convoy of United Nations Disengagement Observer Force vehicles is seen as it leaves the Syrian side of the Golan Heights into Israel on September 15, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/JALAA MAREY)
A convoy of United Nations Disengagement Observer Force vehicles leaving the Syrian side of the Golan Heights for Israel, September 15, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Jalaa Marey)

The reports use “armed members of the opposition” as a blanket term to describe rebel and jihadi groups operating against the Syrian government.

A June 2013 memorandum notes that Israel’s “Liaison Officer informed UNDOF that the IDF had provided emergency medical treatment to 20 armed members of the opposition, all of whom had been returned to the Syrian side.”

Israel has accepted Syrians for medical treatment for years, setting up a field hospital next to the DMZ, and transferring more seriously injured patients to other medical facilities in the north of the country.

Since last year, more than 700 wounded Syrians have been treated in Israeli hospitals via the Syria-Israel border crossing.

Israeli officials have in the past refused to identify who they treat and whether they are regime forces, rebels or civilians.

UNDOF has patrolled the buffer zone between Syria and Israel since 1974, a year after the Yom Kippur War, helping to maintain a ceasefire between the two countries.

Avi Lewis contributed to this report.

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