Israel Delivers Arab Humanitarian Aid to Syrian Refugees

Israel increases aid shipments from NGOs across the border, military tells reporters, but refuses to specify Arab countries involved 'as so not to complicate things'

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

Arab NGOs are using Israel to deliver humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees near the Israel-Syria border, the Israeli military told reporters in a briefing Sunday.

In recent days, the Israel Defense Forces increased its aid shipments across the Golan Heights border in response to the arrival of thousands of additional Syrian refugees from Daraa fleeing bombardments by the Assad regime and Russia in southern Syria.

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In a briefing with journalists, Lieutenant Colonel E. explained that additional shipments of food, medicine, clothing and 300 tents have been added in recent days. Some of the supplies came from NGOs from Israel, the United States and "from Arabs.” Lt. Col. E. refused to specify the Arab countries involved, “so as not to complicate things for them.”

The Israeli military has been providing life-saving humanitarian assistance since 2013. The humanitarian operation is carried out by the IDF Bashan Division, also charged with securing the Golan border with Syria. The division has coordinated the treatment of 4,000 wounded Syrians in Israeli hospitals to date, according to the army, as well as aid shipments.

 Israeli humanitarian aid supply over the border to Syria, June 29, 2018.
\ HANDOUT/ REUTERS

In addition to humanitarian aid, foreign reports say Israel has also supplied light arms and ammunition to some rebel militias in the villages near the border.

Israeli policy is to not allow Syrian refugees across the border, unless they are in need of medical treatment. But according to Lt. Col. E. thousands have found shelter in the villages and tent-camps located in the 4-kilometer band of demilitarized territoryalong the border fence with the Golan.

When asked whether Israel would act to protect these refugees if attacked by regime force, he said that “Israel will not intervene in the war.” When asked whether the border region had become a de-facto buffer zone under Israeli protection, he said that “I cannot say that this is a buffer zone. I can just say that during the last few years, these villages were attacked less often than other places in Syria.”

The Israeli army said on Friday that it transferred overnight humanitarian aid to Syrians fleeing fighting in Syria and to those currently living in makeshift encampments not far from the border with Israel.

The shipment was made to camps in the south and center of the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

According to a statement by the IDF, aid was transferred to four different sites on the Syrian side of the Golan during the operation. They said over 300 tents, 13 tons of food, 15 tons of baby formula and three large shipments of medical equipment and clothing had been delivered.

According to United Nations figures published early last week, some 11,000 civilians fled Daraa to the border with Israel. But aid groups and local residents say the number has ballooned following bombardments of population centers in the southern part of Daraa province.