Analysis: Israel is not facing a Druse refugee crisis, but it is ready for one

Reports of Druse civilians being killed are baseless, and have led to unrest among members of the Druse communities on the Golan Heights, whose relatives and friends live just over the border

June 17, 2015 22:50
3 minute read.
Israel Druze

Members of the Druze community stand near a Druze flag during a rally in the Druze village of Majdal Shams.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Despite the rumors in recent days of an imminent Druse refugee crisis on Israel’s borders, senior IDF sources serving under the Northern Command issued assurances on Wednesday, saying that they see no sign of that happening in the near future.

Nevertheless, the IDF is prepared for a scenario involving Syrian civilians massing on the border in an effort to flee jihadist organizations that mercilessly hunt down and murder minorities.

The Syrian Druse village of Hader, just over the buffer zone and east of Majdal Shams on the Israeli part of the Golan Heights, is loyal to the Assad government, and the regime’s military has a base there, as does Hezbollah.

The rest of the area near the border with Israel is under rebel control; Hader is the last village under regime control.

Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaida’s affiliate in Syria, is not near Hader, though other rebel organizations are.

Hader was the launching pad for an attack on April 26, in which Syrian Druse terrorists, sent by Hezbollah, tried to plant bombs on the border with Israel, before an alleged IAF strike killed them.

On Tuesday, the rebels attacked two military outposts situated some 2 km. outside Hader, and took both.

Some residents of the village serving in Assad’s army took part in the fighting. Exchanges of fire died down on Tuesday evening. The chances of rebels taking Hader anytime soon are slim, according to IDF assessments, though combat in the area will likely persist.

Reports of Druse civilians being killed are baseless, and have led to unrest among members of the four Druse communities on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights, whose relatives and friends live just over the border in Hader.

A wider view of the Syrian civil war leads to an inescapable conclusion; the regime is continuing to unravel, slowly but surely. Despite Iran’s injection of Shi’ite militias, Hezbollah fighters, large amounts of money, and an unending flow of weapons, President Assad controls only parts of Damascus, a corridor leading west of the capital, and the Alawite region of Latakia.

The area controlled by Islamic State continues to grow in both the north and south of the country, though it is not getting close to the Israeli border for now.

The Syrian regime cannot cope with the Islamic State’s growth, and with its military thinly stretched and shrunken in size after four years of warfare, its ability to continue fighting decreases by the week.

It seems likely that Iran and its allies in Syria understand that their battle to win back Syria is lost. With Alawites making up just 10 percent of the Syrian population, and 80 percent being Sunni, there is no chance of the pro-Iranian Assad regime and Hezbollah taking back significant amounts of land from rebels.

Their fight is now limited to trying to preserve an Alawite- Hezbollah mini-state that must be on permanent Iranian life support to survive.

The IDF is viewing this historic chapter in Syria’s implosion, studying its many players, their capabilities and intentions intently.

It has no interest in being dragged into the complex civil war, but Israel also cannot remain on the sidelines and witness a massacre right on its border.

In the event of a refugee crisis occurring near Israel, the army would gather those fleeing in a area near the border and offer them military protection, as well as food, water and medical supplies.

The IDF already provides low-key humanitarian assistance to residents of Syrian villages near Israel.

It is all part of the delicate balance Israel must strike, between moral considerations and its security interest, which is to stay clear of the Syrian bloodbath for as long as possible.

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