JERUSALEM — The Israel Defense Forces has sent armored and artillery reinforcements to its northern border with Syria as the war between the country’s army and rebels continues to escalate.
The forces were deployed on Sunday, July 1, due to “developments” in the Syrian Golan Heights near the border with Israel, the IDF said in a statement.
The IDF said that it will “continue its non-intervention policy in the Syrian conflict, while reacting firmly to cases in which Israeli sovereignty or civilians are threatened.
“Humanitarian assistance has been provided by Israel for many years and continues today, in light of the existing need,” the statement also said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the Syria situation at the start of Sunday’s weekly Cabinet meeting.
“Regarding southern Syria, we will continue to defend our borders. We will extend humanitarian assistance to the extent of our abilities. We will not allow entry into our territory and we will demand that the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement with the Syrian army be strictly upheld,” Netanyahu said.
The prime minister added: “I am in continual contact with the White House and the Kremlin on this matter. The defense minister and the chief-of-staff are in similar contact with their counterparts in both the US and Russia.”
Thousands of displaced Syrians live in tent camps near the border with Israel, with tens of thousands more pouring in in recent days following fighting in Syria’s seven-year civil war in which approximately 500,000 people have died.
Since the Syrian army began focusing last month on the rebel-held Daraa region in southern Syria, some 160,000 Syrian nationals have fled their homes and traveled to the borders of Israel and Jordan, where they feel they will be more protected.
In recent days Israel has transferred hundreds of tons of food, equipment and medicine to the displaced Syrians.
The transfer took place June 28 and included the delivery to refugee camps on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights of 300 tents, 13 tons of food, 15 tons of baby formula, three pallets of medical gear and medicine and 30 tons of clothing, the Israel Broadcasting Corp. reported.
On Sunday, July 1, the Golan Regional Council asked residents to prepare small bags with supplies “that would provide Syrian children with a moment of innocence and joy.”
“We would love for families in the Golan to prepare small bags for Syrian children with small toys, crayons and candies,” read the message sent by the council.
Within 24 hours hundreds of Israeli volunteers brought goodie bags from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ramat Gan and elsewhere.
“They are our neighbors. Every parent knows that a small gift can make a child smile and we want to make the Syrian children smile,” Dalia Amos, the spokesperson for the Golan Regional Council said.
Last weekend, six Syrians, including four children, who were seriously injured, were brought into Israel in what the IDF called a “unique and complex medical operation,” and given medical treatment. According to Syrian reports, the children’s families were killed by the bombings in Syria. The injured Syrian civilians were transferred to a hospital in Israel after receiving life-saving first aid by IDF soldiers, the IDF said.
Since 2013, over 3,500 civilians who were injured in Syria have received medical treatment in Israel. In addition, since 2016, as part of Operation “Good Neighbor,” over 1,300 Syrian children suffering from various illnesses and ailments have received one-day treatment in Israel’s field clinics.
The ‘Mazor Ladach’ field clinic, established by the IDF and international aid organizations in the southern Golan Heights, has provided medical treatment to approximately 6,000 civilians suffering from various conditions since its opening in August, 2017.
More than 120,000 Syrians are believed to have fled their homes last week alone amid a major offensive by the army of President Bashar Assad to recapture areas that have been under the control of Sunni rebels.
Israeli military sources said that Israel will not allow anyone to enter its border from Syria, citing security concerns.
Israel has remained largely neutral in the war in Syria, which is largely fought along sectarian lines. The Jewish state, which is technically in a state of war with Syria, has intervened several times to take out weapons before they reach Hezbollah. The Shiite terrorist group is aiding the army of Assad, who is an Alawite — a minority group with ties to Shiite Islam.
Iran, a Shiite Muslim nation, is a staunch ally of Hezbollah and Assad. Syrian Druze are also a part of Assad’s coalition, which is supported by Russia under President Vladimir Putin.
TPS contributed to this report