After a series of airstrikes against Iranian and Hezbollah-related targets in Syria — one of which was directed against an Iranian Syrian industrial complex near the city of Homs — Israel is now threatening direct intervention in the six-year-old Syrian war.
The Israeli Defense Forces announced Friday they would defend the Druze village of Hader on the Syrian Golan Heights opposite the Druze town of Magdal Shams, which is located on the slopes of Mount Hermon in northeast Israel.
The shocking announcement came after an Islamist suicide bomber killed nine Druze residents of Hader, sparking a clash between Jabhat Fateh al-Sham — the former Al-Qaeda branch in Syria — and the Iranian-backed pro-Assad coalition.
IDF spokesman Avichay Adraee fired off a series of tweets in which he stated 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.”
Adraee said IDF officials were assessing the escalating situation along Israel’s northeastern border, which was also the scene of a cross-border shooting attack on Friday.
SANA, the official mouthpiece of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, reported that the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham terrorist “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,” according to The Times of Israel.
“In the aftermath of the terrorist attack, terrorist groups carried out a heavy attack on Hader, and army units and the Popular Defense units (the Iranian-backed pro-Assad coalition) clashed with the attackers,” according to SANA.
After the suicide attack, the IDF had to prevent angry Druze residents of Magdal Shams from crossing the border with Syria and participating in the ongoing battle, a local source told The Western Journal.
On Monday, the IDF had to foil another attempt by the Druze in Magdal Shams to cross the Israeli-Syrian border in order to help their brothers in Hader, Israel Radio Kan reported.
Most Druze in Magdal Shams have family in Hader and until the beginning of the civil war in Syria, they used to communicate which each other on the so-called Shouting Hill, located on the armistice line of 1967, when Israel captured the Golan Heights during the Six-Day-War.
As The Western Journal reported in 2015, after 50 years of living under Israeli rule, the Druze residents in Magdal Shams are still very much Syria-orientated and many support Syrian Assad.
The IDF move is likely related to the pressure from local Druze leaders, who last year threatened to form their own militia in order to stave off the increasing threat of Islamist terror groups in the Syrian Israeli border region. However, the move could also have something to do with other developments in Syria.
The Druze have their own religion, which has elements of all three major monotheistic religions. They are considered infidels by Islamist rebel groups such as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.
Until now, Israel has managed to remain outside the Syrian fray and has limited itself to airstrikes on Iranian and Hezbollah-related targets in the devastated country, as well as to humanitarian operations in the border area of the Golan Heights.
Niri Zilber, writing for Politico, revealed last week that since the introduction of the so-called Israeli “Good Neighbor” policy in June 2016, the IDF has carried out 200 humanitarian missions in Syria, some of them as far as ten miles away from the Israeli border.
Thousands of Syrians are now provided with medical assistance, humanitarian aid and infrastructure projects, according to Zilber, who interviewed Lt. Col. E of the IDF central command on the Golan Heights.
The “Good Neighbor” policy was designed to dissuade the local population from linking up with the Islamist terror groups, who controlled most of the border region until recently.
An IDF officer described the threat posed by those groups last year as “50 shades of black,” while E explained to Zilber that Israel had a clear security interest by launching this “hearts and minds” campaign.
The Druze on the Israeli Golan Heights, however, view Israel’s “Good Neighbor” policy as providing assistance to Islamist terrorists. In June 2015, the Druze attacked an Israeli ambulance which they claimed was transferring two Jabhat Fateh al-Sham terrorists to an Israeli hospital.
One of the wounded Syrians in the ambulance later died of the wounds inflicted upon him by Druze from Magdal Shams, while the IDF providing assistance to the Islamist terror group.
Col. Noam Fink, a cardiologist who works for the IDF’s northern command, told Zilber the Israeli army is “not checking IDs” when it takes in injured Syrians. He said most of the injured are children who are in need of treatment of eyes and ears diseases, epilepsy and emotional care as a result of war traumas.
“For a 5-year-old who has only known war, that day in Israel might be the best of their lives. And no one can accuse me of helping terrorists. At the end, a child is a child,” said Lt. Col. “E,” or Abu Yacob as the Syrians call him.
“If we weren’t doing this, someone else would be. There’s no such thing as a vacuum in this region,” E added while pointing at a Hezbollah flag at the other side of the border.
The IDF officer was referring to the continuing Iranian efforts to establish a foothold on the Syrian Golan Heights via Hezbollah and other Shiite militias, something that Israel considers unacceptable.
The IDF threat to intervene directly in the Syrian war after the attack on Hader could, therefore, be the pretext for a confrontation with Iran and its proxies in order to stop the Iranian encroachment on the Israeli border at the Golan Heights.
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