IDF ends 'Good Neighbor' humanitarian aid program for Syrian civilians

The operation ended once the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad re-took control of the Syrian Golan Heights, seven years after losing it to rebel groups.

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September 13, 2018 19:11
3 minute read.
IDF gives urgent treatment to Syria refugees, June 30, 2018.

IDF gives urgent treatment to Syria refugees, June 30, 2018.. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)

 
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The Israeli military’s Operation Good Neighbor has ended after two years of extensive humanitarian activity, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit announced Thursday evening.

“After two years of complex, varied and extensive humanitarian activities that assisted tens of thousands of Syrian citizens, Operation Good Neighbor has ended,” read the statement.

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The humanitarian campaign was wrapped up when the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad regained control of the country’s southwest corner seven years after losing it to rebel groups at the beginning of the Syrian Civil War.

Since the outbreak of fighting in 2011, the rebel-held Syrian Golan Heights have faced a severe shortage of medical infrastructure, doctors and medicine. In June 2016, the IDF launched Operation Good Neighbor to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance.

“The operation provided humanitarian and medical assistance to Syrian citizens out of the importance of human life and as a gesture of goodwill, and is part of the extensive humanitarian assistance provided by the IDF in the last five years,” the IDF statement continued.

As part of the operation, the Mazor Ladach (Hebrew for Bandaging Those In Need) field clinic was opened in August 2017 in an unused military post in Israel’s southern Golan Heights near the Syrian border. The day clinic operated in cooperation with Frontier Alliance International, an American evangelical humanitarian organization.

Operating for about a year, doctors treated an estimated 7,000 Syrian children before the clinic closed in August.

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The IDF’s 210th Division helped train the 16-18 doctors on staff, and provided care to more than 500 patients per day. More than 4,900 patients requiring surgery were transferred to Safed’s Rebecca Sieff (Ziv) Hospital, while several women gave birth at Nahariya’s Western Galilee Hospital.

Operation Good Neighbor also provided 630 tents, 40 vehicles, 20 generators, an estimated 1,100,000 liters of fuel, approximately 26,000 palettes of medical equipment and medicine, 1,700 tons of food, 49,000 packages of baby food, 8,200 packages of diapers, and 350 tons of children’s clothing.

Twenty mobile caravans were provided to be used as clinics or classrooms.

“The IDF’s extensive assistance activities in the Syrian Golan Heights are another expression of the values that guide [the army], including extending a supporting hand in times of trouble to civilians in need of assistance, even outside the borders of the country,” the IDF statement read.

In February, The Jerusalem Post joined IDF troops transferring Syrian civilians to hospitals in northern Israel.

“The Syrian war came to a point where people started showing up on our border looking for help. They had no trust in their government and could not rely on it – instead turning to a country that for 50 years they were told was the enemy,” Maj. Dr. Sergei Kotikov, one of the senior IDF officers involved in Operation Good Neighbor, told the Post.

In July, when this reporter returned to Israel’s Golan Heights during a regime offensive which ultimately led to the Syrians regaining the territory from the rebels, Kotikov said that the IDF would continue to provide aid to displaced Syrians as long as it could.

“We don’t know if the situation will deteriorate further, but as long as we can give help to civilians we will continue,” he said.

“The Syrians are not living in a simple situation, and there is no simple and good solution,” Kotikov said. “I asked one 12 year-old patient what he wanted to be when he was older… ’I’m not sure I will get older’, was his response.”

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