Netanyahu calls for calm after Golan Heights lynching
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Netanyahu calls for calm after Golan Heights lynching

After Druze mob attacks ambulance and kills wounded Syrian, PM says perpetrators will be punished

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the International Cyber Conference at Tel Aviv University, June 23, 2015. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the International Cyber Conference at Tel Aviv University, June 23, 2015. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Tuesday that Israel would prosecute those involved in the mob killing of a wounded Syrian in the Golan Heights a day earlier, and appealed to Druze leaders for calm.

The Majdal Shams attack, which is being described in Hebrew-language media as a lynching, was the second assault on an ambulance carrying wounded Syrians in a day, as Druze acted on fears that Israel was aiding the same jihadists threatening their coreligionists across the border.

“I view this with utmost gravity. We will not allow anyone to take the law into their hands,” Netanyahu said at a cyber-security conference in Tel Aviv. “We will not allow anyone to hinder IDF soldiers in their mission. We will locate those who perpetrated this lynching and we will deal with them to the fullest extent of the law.”

Netanyahu called on leaders of the Druze community, “a splendid community with whom we have a brotherly bond, citizens of the State of Israel,” to push for calm and to entreat their coreligionists to “respect the law, respect IDF soldiers and not take law into your hands.”

The attack took place late Monday night, as the ambulance was carrying two wounded Syrians into Israel for treatment, escorted by an IDF vehicle. A mob of some 150 people hurled rocks at the cars, killing one of the injured men, further wounding the second one — who is now in critical condition — and lightly injuring two Israeli soldier.

It wasn’t clear who perpetrated the lynching, or whether they were citizens of the State of Israel. The vast majority of Syrian Druze living in the Golan Heights do not have Israeli citizenship.

In a Tuesday report, the mouthpiece of the Assad regime, the Syrian Arab News Agency, praised the mob who attacked the ambulance and claimed that the wounded on board were al-Nusra Front jihadists.

“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.

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.

An ambulance attacked in the Golan Heights on June 22, 2015. (Screen capture: Channel 2)
An ambulance attacked in the Golan Heights on June 22, 2015. (Screen capture: Channel 2)

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 were 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.”

Syrian and Druze flags at a pro-Assad protest in the Druze village of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights on Monday. (Melanie Lidman/Times of Israel)
Syrian and Druze flags at a pro-Assad protest in the Druze village of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights on Monday. (Melanie Lidman/Times of Israel)

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, members of 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.

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.

Spiritual Leader of the Druze Community in Israel Sheikh Moafaq Tarif, October 20, 2013. (photo credit: Mark Neyman/GPO/FLASH90)
Spiritual Leader of the Druze Community in Israel Sheikh Moafaq Tarif, October 20, 2013. (photo credit: Mark Neyman/GPO/FLASH90)

“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.

Marissa Newman contributed to this report.

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