Members of al-Qaida's Nusra Front [File].
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Two Syrian army soldiers keeping guard in the Syrian Golan village of Hader killed a Druse commander that was serving with them before defecting to the Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of al-Qaida, early Tuesday morning. The two soldiers may have been agents of the Nusra Front.
The Nusra Front began an offensive on Hader in the aftermath of the murder which mainly consisted of mortar fire and light weapons fire. The village of Hader, which is right across from northern Israel's Druse town of Majd al-Shams, on the other side of Mount Hermon, is home to some 25,000 Druse.
Concerns for Syria's 700,000 Druse has risen in recent days amid the Nusra Front's advances near Hader and the advancement of Islamic State in the region known as Mount Druse, 60 km. from the Jordanian border and 50 km. from Israel’s Golan Heights.
The Druse community in Hader and in Israel is concerned over the development because the Nusra Front has sought to control Hader for some time in order to gain control of the entire Golan Heights. The al-Qaida-linked fighters number several hundred men as well as dozens of tanks that they have seized. Five Druse have been injured in the fighting, and they have been offered the chance to come to Israel for treatment, but they refused because they fear the response of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Amid the threat to Syria's Druse community, the IDF began setting up a field hospital on the border, but they have frozen the process, as the situation has calmed. The IDF has sent messages to the Nusra Front through the Free Syrian Army, warning the Islamist group not to harm Syria's Druse.
The IDF Spokesman's Office stated that IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon held a situation assessment about the plight of the Syrian Druse and spoke with the OC Nothern Command Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi who reported to them that the siutation is currently calm. The defense minister ordered continued surveillance of the events and instructed the IDF to take steps to maintain the quiet.
Likud MK Ayoub Kara, who himself is a Druse, plans to ask Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon to allow Israeli Druse to cross the border to Hader in order to provide humanitarian aid. Entering Syria without permission is illegal for Israelis and Druse who do so can be charged with entering an enemy state, or aiding the enemy.