In a highly unusual move, Israel on Friday said it would defend the Syrian Druze village Hader, hours after a terrorist killed nine people in a suicide bombing just across the border that then sparked clashes between Syrian government forces and rebels.
In a series of tweets, the army’s Arabic spokesman Avichay Adraee said the IDF is prepared to “support the village residents and work to prevent any harm or the occupation of the village, out of a commitment to the Druze population.”
The statement said top military brass on Friday morning were assessing the escalating situation across the border.
Earlier, 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 a now-changed name for a jihadist group that was formerly 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.
After the incident, dozens of Druze residents of Israel protested at the Syrian border against the escalating violence in Hader.
The IDF’s announcement that it would protect Hader, which lies inside Syria, is a very rare example of a public intervention in the Syrian civil war raging across the border.
The statement 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.
Over the past six years, Israel has clung to a hands-off policy toward the war, only getting involved when one of its “red lines” is transgressed. These “red lines” include the violation of Israeli sovereignty through deliberate or accidental attacks, Iranian-supported militias taking positions on the Golan border, and attempts to transfer advanced weapons to the Hezbollah terrorist group.