Druze on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights killed a wounded Syrian heading for treatment in Israel, drawing praise from the Assad government while fueling concerns in Israel about mounting spillover from its neighbor’s war.
The group of Syrian-descended Druze attacked an Israeli army ambulance evacuating two wounded Syrians late Monday through the frontier village of Majdal Shams, the second such incident in 24 hours. One died and the other was critically wounded, Israeli police said. Spokeswoman Luba Samri said the dead man was apparently a rebel.
The state-run Syrian news agency, Sana, praised the Druze as “heroes” who punished “two Nusra Front terrorists” for “participating in attacks on the nation and its people.” It accused Israel of supporting “crimes by terrorist groups in Syria and offering them medical help.”
The incident highlights the growing volatility on the Golan over the Syrian conflict’s entanglement of the Druze, whose faith is an offshoot of Shiite Islam. Druze live primarily in Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the southern section of the Golan that Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war. Some support the Assad regime, others oppose it.
Druze in Israel and the Israeli-held Golan have been demanding increased aid for co-religionists in Syria after 23 died in an attack by the Sunni Muslim Nusra Front earlier this month. Some Golan Druze also oppose Israel’s provision of medical assistance to Syrian rebels wounded near the frontier.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the attack on the ambulance and urged Druze leaders to “calm the mood.”
“We will not permit anybody to take the law into their own hands,” he said in a text message. “We will not allow anyone to hinder IDF soldiers in their mission.”
Israeli Deputy Minister for Regional Cooperation Ayoub Kara, a Druze lawmaker from Netanyahu’s Likud party, warned that “we Druze risk losing the sympathy of the Israeli people because of this grave and uncalled-for incident, which has no place in a society where law and order prevail.”
Kara has urged Israel and the international community to step up aid to the Syrian Druze and establish a “safe zone” for them along the Golan frontier, where many of them live.