Seven wounded Syrian refugees were evacuated to a hospital in Israel Saturday as clashes between rebels and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime spilled into the Syrian side of the Golan Heights – dangerously close to Israel’s northern border.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said soldiers treated the seven Syrians wounded Saturday near the northern security fence along the frontier in the Golan Heights. She would not elaborate and spoke on condition of anonymity in line with protocol.
The seven reached the Israeli border with a larger group of refugees escaping the violence in Syria. They were given preliminary treatment on the border after they were found to be unarmed. They were then transferred by IDF troops to Ziv Hospital in Safed in military ambulances – a first since the violence in Syria began nearly two years ago.
It was not immediately clear whether the wounded Syrian nationals were rebels fighting Assad’s forces or civilians desperate to escape a civil war which has cost the lives of tens of thousands of insurgents and troops. Hospital director Oscar Embon said one of the Syrians arrived at the hospital in critical condition, but was now in serious condition. The other six were said to be in moderate condition after undergoing surgery.
Israel Radio quoted sources in the IDF as saying Saturday’s events were an isolated incident, and that Israel would not grant humanitarian assistance to Syrian nationals on a regular basis.
Earlier Saturday, Israeli media reported that Syrian rebels had taken over a police barricade in the Syrian Golan Heights, very close to the border with Israel. They captured a Syrian army tank and other weaponry, and disabled a second tank, the reports said. Syrian army forces were reported to be shelling the area, northeast of Quneitra.
Syrian activists confirmed fighting in the Quneitra region, which is on the cease-fire line between Syria and Israel in the Golan Heights.
Israel has so far elected to stay out of the fighting between Assad, known to possess caches of chemical and biological weapons, and his opponents, some of whom belong to al-Qaeda-affiliated groups dead-set on toppling Assad’s secular regime – and possibly targeting Israel, too.
Meanwhile Saturday, an activist group said pro-government gunmen kidnapped more than 300 people in northwestern Syria in retaliation for the abduction of 42 Shi’ite Muslims this week.