Israel’s carefully calibrated policy of non-intervention in the Syrian civil war was sharply jolted on Monday night when Druze villagers on the Golan Heights attacked an IDF ambulance carrying injured Syrians whom they believed to be on the side of rebel forces threatening their fellow Druze in Syria.
According to initial reports, a Syrian refugee subsequently died and two Israeli soldiers and another wounded Syrian were lightly injured after a mob of about 150 locals set upon the ambulance.
The ambulance, escorted by a Military Police patrol car, was en route to Kiryat Shmona when it ran into the Druze protesters near Majdal Shams. An IDF source told Ynet that the Druze were able to lay their hands on the wounded Syrians, likely worsening their condition. Both had been seriously wounded in the Syrian fighting.
Police and army units were called to the scene at the Druze community of Majdal Shams.
“This incident is an incident that will change the situation here,” a senior military official told reporters. “We’re talking about a very serious incident of an attack on a military vehicle that engages in saving lives.”
Earlier in the day, an IDF ambulance carrying people wounded in Syria was the target of rock-throwers outside the Druze village of Hurfeish, in the upper Galil. They tried to block the vehicle in an attempt to check that it wasn’t carrying jihadi rebels, police said.
However, in that incident the ambulance was able to flee the scene and arrived safely at the police station in Maalot. It was then escorted by police to the Western Galil Hospital in Nahariya.
Over the past two weeks, since reports of Syrian Druze being killed by the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, the Druze in Israel, located mostly in the north, have been greatly alarmed and have entreated both Israel and the United States to intervene.
There have been accusations that Israel is providing medical assistance to jihadis. The IDF maintains that their policy is to favor non-combatants and to provide assistance only to moderate rebel fighters.
Farah Sabeq, secretary of the Hurfeish municipality, confirmed that several townsmen had taken part in the first incident. Speaking to Reuters, he described them as “incensed by the situation in Syria” and said that while they had tried to close the road used by the ambulance, he knew of no stone-throwing.
“We condemn this as we would any illegal activity, but especially here, as it involved the security forces — in all branches of which Hurfeish residents serve,” Sabeq said.
Ayoob Kara, a Druze deputy Israeli minister, sought to reassure his kinsmen about Syrian casualties coming into Israel.
In a statement, Kara said Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon had told him Israel would not admit fighters from radical jihadi groups Islamic State or Nusra Front.
An IDF official denied that the Syrians in question were from the Nusra Front, though he would not identify them.