Israeli Officer: No Massacre in Druze Village on Syrian Side of Golan Heights

Israeli-controlled Golan Heights enjoying one of its calmest periods, officer says, adds Israel doesn't intend to set up field hospital near border.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Smoke rises after an explosion in the fighting between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebels on the outskirts of the Druze village of Khader in Syria, June 17, 2015.
Smoke rises after an explosion in the fighting between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebels on the outskirts of the Druze village of Khader in Syria, June 17, 2015.Credit: AP
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

A high-ranking Israeli army officer who serves in the Golan Heights said on Wednesday the rumors that Druze in Syria near the Israeli border are being massacred were baseless.>

Despite reports that the Druze village of Khadr in the Syrian Golan Heights has become a battleground between rebels and Syrian regime forces, "the rumor mill saying that the Druze are fired upon and massacred is baseless," the officer told reporters on Wednesday.

The officer confirmed that fighting between rebels and regime forces took place not far from the village on Tuesday, and stressed that the sirens sounded on the Israeli side of the Golan were due to exchanges of fire inside Syria, and were not directed at Israel.

"This is one of the calmest periods in the Golan Heights. There's also no specific alerts in the sector," the officer said.

"Is it possible that Khadr would be seized by other hands? Theoretically it could happen, but it's not our business," the officer said. "There's no massacre. There was disinformation which seemed to me to verge on the improbable, like the reports that dozens of wounded are on the border fence, waiting to go in. It didn’t happen. I think they took things here in unrealistic directions."

Asked what the Israeli policy would be should Syrian citizens arrive at the border fence, the officer said the IDF has an array of options. "Whatever will be decided by the decision makers – that's what will do," he said. The officer reiterated that "we have no intention of participating in the fighting in Syria."

The officer added that Israel does not intend to set up a field hospital in the area, and that "fugitives" from Syria requiring medical treatment would receive the same treatment Israel has given in previous instances were those wounded in the civil war approached the border.

Asked what the military order was in case civilians reach the Israeli border, the officer said that "it didn't happen yet, and I assume it won't happen for any unclear reason. Anyone who reaches the border area – we'll hear what he wants. The Syrians should stay in Syria, and Israelis in Israel. We don't let people in Israel for no reason, we give humanitarian aid if necessary."

Israel has relayed messages to Sunni rebel groups operating in the Syrian part of the Golan Heights, warning them against attacking or drawing near the Druze village of Khadr, located near the Israeli border not far from the northern Mount Hermon.

The village of Khadr has been surrounded by rebel forces after heavy fighting on Wednesday, mainly between Free Syrian Army and Assad regime forces, AFP reported, citing the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group. Khadr "is now totally surrounded by rebels, who just took a strategic hilltop north of the village," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

According to Abdel Rahman, the rebels received reinforcement from Quneitra, near the border, but the regime has yet to send reinforcements to the village. "[T]he Druze villagers are standing with the government," he added.

Though there were no reports of casualties in Khadr, the residents were in a panic, and requested assistance from fellow Druze across the border in Israel.

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