Israel Halts Aid to Syrian Civilians After Assad Retakes Border Area

Israeli army announces end to the humanitarian program for displaced Syrians which included food, medical care and clothing

Displaced Syrians near the Israeli border, in Quneitra, Syria, June 29, 2018.
\ ALAA AL-FAQIR/ REUTERS

Israel has stopped supplying humanitarian aid to Syrian civilians on the Golan Heights now that Syrian President Bashar Assad has regained control of the area, the army announced on Thursday.

In its statement, the Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson’s Unit added that during the two years in which the Good Neighbor program was active, the army gave Syrian civilians more than a million liters of fuel, 26,000 cartons of medical equipment and some 350 tons of clothing. The program also supplied food, including baby food, as well as other baby products, vehicles, tents and generators.

To really understand Israel and the Middle East - subscribe to Haaretz

In addition, the army ran a medical clinic near the Syrian border for about a year, which treated thousands of Syrian children, the statement said. Another program, called Doctor’s Visit, treated over 1,300 children and referred dozens for operations in Israeli hospitals, it added.

Last week, the journal Foreign Policy reported that Israel also secretly armed and financed at least 12 rebel militias in southern Syria. In exchange, these militias were supposed to help keep Iranian and Islamic State forces away from the border. The report said Israel armed these groups for years, giving them assault rifles, machine guns, mortar launchers and vehicles, all transferred via three gates in the border fence through which humanitarian aid was also sent. But the arms shipments were halted in July.

In recent weeks, the United States and the European Union have voiced fears that the Assad regime plans to use chemical weapons in its assault on the northern district of Idlib, the last bastion of the Syrian rebels. America’s new special representative for Syria, James Jeffrey, said this fear is based on substantial evidence.

The White House has warned that the U.S. and other countries will respond swiftly and forcefully if the regime does use chemical weapons.