Thousands of Israeli Druze took to the streets in the northern towns of Isfiya and Majdal Shams Monday in a solidarity protest on behalf of members of their community caught up in the turmoil of the ongoing civil war across the border in Syria.
The protest came several hours after Israel’s Druze community announced that it had collected more than NIS 10 million ($2.6 million) for the Syrian Druze community to buy weapons and other necessities after jihadists massacred 20 Druze in the Idlib region last week.
Joined by local Christians, some 4,000 Israeli Druze residents gathered in downtown Isfiya holding signs reading “If necessary, we will cross over into Syria to protect our brothers,” and “We’re willing to die as martyrs for our brothers.”
In the border town of Majdal Shams, where 2,000 Druze had gathered, one protester told Ynet that “The Druze street is burning. Everyone is prepared to fight for the Druze in Syria who are going through a difficult time.”
Another protester said that last week’s unprecedented attack on the minority group “crossed a red line,” and that the Druze community would “not allow this to continue, even if it means endangering our lives.”
Isfiya resident Mahnah Mansour said there was a definite fear for the existence of their community in Syria, and that many Israeli Druze would be willing to cross over into Syria to defend the 800,000 Druze there from the advance of jihadist terror groups.
“We’re asking and hoping, that just as we are loyal to the state (of Israel) with our blood, that the establishment — or anyone else that can help — will help us appropriately.”
On Saturday, The Druze Zionist Council sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, urging Israel to avert a Druze “holocaust” by jihadists.
“Non-involvement in Syria will result in a Druze holocaust under our very noses, and who like Israel knows what a holocaust and genocide is,” wrote council head Atta Farhat.
Israel is reportedly mulling the creation of a “safe zone” on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights in order to aid Druze refugees.
The majority of Syrian Druze live in and around the southern province of Sweida in a region also known as Jabal al-Druze, or Mount Druze, close to the Israeli border. Tens of thousands of their brethren live in Israel.
Over the weekend, members of Israel’s Druze minority, many of whom have relatives and friends in Syria, collected money, clothes, food, and other staples to send across the border.
Earlier on Monday, Likud MK Ayoub Kara said that in the last two months, the chaos of Syria’s civil war has acutely affected the small Druze community in Syria.
Kara, himself is an Israeli Druze, said that the situation has deteriorated so significantly that Druze in Syria are looking to buy weapons for self-protection.
Previously, the Druze mostly supported the regime of President Bashar Assad, but in the past two months Assad’s forces have been unable to protect the Druze community in southern Syria from jihadist groups.
Melanie Lidman contributed to this report.