Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon on a tour of the Syrian-Israeli border on Tuesday, December 3, 2013.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon on a tour of the Syrian-Israeli border on Tuesday, December 3, 2013. Photo by Ariel Hermoni / Defense Ministry
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The Israel Defense Forces has been providing humanitarian aid to Syrians living near the border, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon revealed on Tuesday during a tour of the frontier.

According to Ya’alon, Israel has sent water and food, including baby foods, across the border, and has been helping the Syrians prepare for winter.

“Given the fact that these villages are besieged and have no access to anyplace else, we are helping for humanitarian reasons,” the defense minister said. Haaretz has learned that the food is being transferred to the Syrian villages via the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force. Sometimes, however, IDF soldiers lay aid packages just across the border and the village residents collect them.

This assistance supplements the medical treatment that has been provided to wounded Syrians, both at IDF field hospitals set up along the border and in Israeli hospitals. Ya’alon promised that the disagreement the defense and health ministries over who would pay for the medical treatment provided to hundreds of wounded Syrians would be resolved shortly.

Addressing the incident on Monday in which the IDF fired into Syria after its troops were shot at on the Golan Heights, Yaa’lon said that the Syrian fire had come from a single soldier.

“It’s not the first time, but these are local initiatives as far as we know,” and not at the behest of the Syrian government, he said. “But there’s no violating our sovereignty. Whoever tries to violate our sovereignty will get hurt, whether it is an individual solider, or a cannon, mortar or machine gun position. We will continue [to respond] in the future as we have until now.”

Ya’alon also addressed the situation in Gaza and the exposé in Haaretz that the government plans to allow building materials into Gaza for some large construction projects coordinated by international organizations.

“Hamas could have chosen to grow and export strawberries and not to manufacture and export rockets and missiles,” he said. “If not for this situation, we would not have blocked, for example, the transfer of pipes, that are used by them to make rockets, or the entrance of cement that has been used by them recently to dig and build attack tunnels.” He stressed that “there is no siege on the Gaza Strip.”

Ya’alon said he had decided to reconsider Israel’s decision to stop the transfer of building materials after being contacted by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon about a week ago. He said he agreed to reconsider “on two conditions: That he [Ban] issue a declaration condemning Hamas’ use of cement for tunnels, and that a representative of his should tell us exactly how much cement was needed and for which project, and commit to making sure it didn’t reach Hamas to be used for terror.”

According to Ya’alon, the cement slated to be sent into Gaza is expected to be used to build schools for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.