Israel police arrest dozens of Druze on their way to Syria

The men were detained at the border crossing with Jordan

By
September 5, 2019 20:06
2 minute read.
Members of the Druze community holds Syrian and Druze flags as they sit facing Syria, during a rally

Members of the Druze community holds Syrian and Druze flags as they sit facing Syria, during a rally marking the anniversary of Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights in the Druze village of Majdal Shams. February 14, 2019. . (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)

Dozens of Druze Israelis were arrested by police at the Sheikh Hussein border crossing near Beit She’an on Thursday, as they attempted to cross into Jordan en route to Damascus to meet with Syrian government officials in violation of Israeli law.

A police statement said the joint Israel Police and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) operation took place over the last few months, carried out both undercover and in the open.

“It became clear that the group of men – Druze from the Galilee and Carmel regions – intended to go to Syria, which is illegal,” police said. “When their intentions became known to authorities, they were warned that their activities are against the law as it would compromise the security of the State and its citizens.”

Despite the warnings, the group arrived in buses and private vehicles at the border crossing with Jordan with the intention to continue into Syria. The buses and cars were stopped by authorities and confiscated.

“The police and Shin Bet will continue to work to prevent terrorism-related activity and attempts by terrorist organizations from recruiting Israeli civilians,” police said, adding that while the rights of all citizens – including freedom of movement and religion – will be protected, the two agencies “will continue operations to prevent any attempts to endanger Israel’s security.”

While Israel and Syria remain officially at war, most of the 20,000 Druze living in four villages in the Israeli Golan Heights are Syrian citizens, with relatives living across the frontier in the Assad regime-controlled territory. Before the Syrian Civil War broke out in 2011, many would go to Syria to study and to find a spouse.
Separate from the Golan Druze, 110,000 of the co-religionists live in the Galilee and hold Israeli nationality. Over 85% of these Druze Israelis volunteer to serve in the IDF, mostly in combat units and Border Police. Many reach senior positions in the military and police.

Last year the Druze community was in an uproar over the proposed Nation-State Law, with many saying that it broke the traditional “blood alliance” between Israel and the Druze.

While supporters of the controversial law say that it enshrines Jewish and democratic values, critics say that it discriminates against minority communities like Druze and Arab Israelis. In particular, critics say the law downgrades Arabic from an official to a “special” language.

Idan Zonshine contributed to this report.

 


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