US doctor lightly injured in Golan Heights by possible stray fire from Syria

Army investigating incident after shots fired from across the border hit Israeli medical facility treating wounded Syrians

IDF vehicles driving along the road parallel to the border fence separating the Israeli and Syrian regions of the Golan Heights, July 19, 2017. (AFP/MENAHEM KAHANA)
IDF vehicles driving along the road parallel to the border fence separating the Israeli and Syrian regions of the Golan Heights, July 19, 2017. (AFP/MENAHEM KAHANA)

An American doctor working in an Israeli field hospital treating wounded Syrians in the Golan Heights was lightly injured Tuesday night as a result of shots fired from across the border towards the medical facility.

The army said it was investigating “the possibility that the incident was caused due to stray fire.”

“A few hours ago, shots were fired towards a field hospital that is part of Operation Good Neighbor in the southern Golan heights, adjacent to the border on the Syrian side,” according to the IDF spokesman’s unit. “As a result, a foreign staff member was very lightly injured and was treated at the scene.”

Israel has largely stayed out of the Syrian civil war, which broke out in March 2011, but has over the years acknowledged that it helps treat wounded Syrians who arrive at its border, and provides some of them with humanitarian assistance.

In July the army revealed that since June 2016 it has quietly been working on Operation Good Neighbor, a massive multi-faceted humanitarian relief operation to keep starvation away from the thousands of Syrians who live along the border and provide basic medical treatment to those who cannot access it in Syria because of the war.

In this undated photo provided on July 19, 2017, IDF soldiers treat a wounded Syrian in the area of the Golan Heights. (IDF spokesperson)

In the year since the operation was launched, over 600 Syrian children, accompanied by their mothers, have come to Israel for treatment. Hundreds of tons of food, medical equipment and clothing have also been sent across the border to Syria, clearly bearing Hebrew labels from Israeli companies.

The IDF is also currently facilitating the construction of two clinics within Syria, which will be run by locals and workers from NGOs. This includes logistical coordination and sending over building materials and medical equipment, according to the army.

A picture taken from the Israeli side of the border shows smoke rising near the Israeli-Syrian border on the Golan Heights during fights between the rebels and the Syrian army inside Syria, June 25, 2017. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

The fighting in Syria has generated a number of spillover incidents over the years resulting in stray gunshot or mortar fire towards the Israeli Golan Heights. Israel routinely retaliates against stray mortar hits inside its territory by striking Syrian army targets, which it holds responsible for all spillover fire, regardless of the source.

Last month Israel used a Patriot missile to shoot down the drone launched by Hezbollah and scrambled fighter jets to the area where the device was set to cross into Israeli airspace, but ultimately did not need to use them as the interceptor missile was able to destroy the target.

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