Israel 'ready to defend' Druze village in Syria after Golan Heights attack

Israel 'ready to defend' Druze village in Syria after Golan Heights attack
The Israeli military said it was ready to protect the Druze village of Hader on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights after fighting between Syrian factions escalated.
2 min read
03 November, 2017

The Israeli army on Friday issued a rare statement in support of a Syrian regime-held village in Syria's Golan Heights, pledging not to allow it to be taken by attacking rebel forces.

The army was ready to "prevent Hader from being harmed or occupied, as part of our commitment to the Druze population," a statement from chief military spokesman Brigadier General Ronen Manelis said. 

Manelis did not specify how Israel would act, but firmly denied "claims of Israeli involvement or help to global jihad elements in the fighting".

The majority-Druze village, which lies near the disengagement line that divides the Syrian-controlled part of the Golan from that occupied by Israel, was targeted early in the morning by a suicide car bomb that killed nine and wounded at least 23 people.

Syrian state news agency SANA said the bomber was an al-Nusra Front fighter, a former affiliate of al-Qaeda in Syria and now known as the Fateh al-Sham Front.

"A suicide bomber from al-Nusra Front detonated a car bomb in the midst of the homes of citizens on the outskirts of Hader, killing nine people and injuring at least 23," SANA said.

"In the aftermath of the terrorist attack, terrorist groups carried out a heavy attack on Hader, and army units and the Popular Defence units (pro-government militants) clashed with the attackers," it added.

SANA said the toll was expected to rise because a number of those wounded in the bombing were in serious condition and the ongoing assault on the town made it difficult to remove the injured to safety.

Meanwhile, Druze from Majdal Shams, a village on the Israeli side of the disengagement line, rushed to the fence in a bid to help their brethren in Syria, an AFP reporter said.

The Israeli army sealed off the area to prevent any such crossings.

There are approximately 140,000 Druze in Israel, including 20,000 in the Golan Heights.

Israel has long professed a policy of not intervening militarily in the Syrian civil war, though it acknowledges carrying out dozens of air strikes to stop what it calls advanced arms deliveries to Hizballah.

Israel seized 1,200 square kilometres (460 square miles) of the Golan Heights from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it, a move never recognised by the international community.

It has also systematically responded to stray fire across the armistice line on the Golan.