Members of the Druse community watch the fighting in the Druse village of Khadr in Syria as they stand on the Israeli side of the border fence between Syria and the Golan Heights.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Tuesday that law enforcement will go after those behind the deadly mob attack on injured Syrian nationals on Monday night near Majdal Shams and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.
Describing the attack on an IDF ambulance, which resulted in the killing of one Syrian and the serious injury of another, as a severe incident, Ya'alon stated "We will not go back to normal routine."
He added, "Israel is a state of law, and we will not allow anarchy, violent conduct, and the taking of the law into one's own hand by a minority of its residents. This incident is a violation of the state's values, which are expressed by humanitarian medical treatment to injured Syrians, and to every person who needs it."
A small and violent handful will "not harm the special alliance the state of Israel has with its Druse civilians, and will not succeed in tarnishing the face of the [Druse] community," Ya'alon vowed. "I call on public officials talking about the issue to show restraint and refrain from fiery remarks," he added. "The reality in Syria is complex. We are dealing with the situation responsibly, with sound judgement, and we are updating the Druse leadership of developments."
IDF Spokesman Brig-Gen. Moti Almoz released a statement on his Facebook account condemning the attack. "The IDF does has not assisted the Jabhat Al-Nusra organization since the start of internal [Syrian] fighting throughout the last four years," he said.
"We assist injured Syrians who arrive at the border and provide them with medical care. Now is the time to calm things down. I wish a speedy recovery to all of the injured," Almoz added.
In the hours that followed the incident, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot held an evaluation meeting with Northern territorial Command chief Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, and received details on the attack, as well as future IDF plans.
Eisenkot condemned the attack, saying "it is unfathomable that IDF soldiers and injured [Syrians] will be assaulted by Israeli civilians."
The attack was first reported around 10:30 pm Monday night. According to Northern District police, an IDF ambulance escorted by a Military Police jeep was ambushed by a group of locals from Majdal Shams, who began to hurl rocks at both vehicles. They then attacked the two Syrians – who were already wounded – killing one and seriously wounding the other. Two IDF soldiers in the ambulance were lightly hurt in the incident.
After the attack, video emerged of crowds of hundreds celebrating in a central roundabout in Majdal Shams.
The decision to give the ambulance a police escort was made following an incident earlier the same day, in which a mob attacked an IDF ambulance transporting two Syrians to hospital in Nahariya, as it was passing the Druse village of Hurfeish in the Upper Galilee. The ambulance managed to evade the mob, which pursued them in two vehicles until they made it to a police station in Ma’alot.
Late Monday night commanders of the Northern District police held a meeting and tasked their special investigative unit with the murder case.
A senior IDF official on Monday night denied outright the assertion that the two wounded were jihadi fighters from Syria’s civil war.
For the past two weeks, Druse in communities across Israel, including in the Golan Heights, have been incensed by reports of Druse killed by the al-Qaida linked Nusra Front in fighting in Syria just over the Golan Heights border with Israel. Fed by rumors and reports in the Syrian media and elsewhere, a widespread assertion has taken flight that Israel has adopted a policy of assisting the Nusra Front by treating their fighters in Israeli hospitals. Israeli Druse have called on Israel to immediately stop the practice, while the IDF asserts that their policy is to give preference to non-combatants and to only medically assist moderate rebel groups.