IDF chief pledges to protect and aid Syrian refugees

As the 4-year-old Syrian civil war grows ever closer to Israel’s northern border, senior military officials in Israel are preparing for a possible influx of Syrian refugees.

By midweek, heavy fighting had reached Quneitra, a Syrian-held city on the Golan Heights. Sirens screeched across the Golan on June 17, sending Israelis in several northern communities into bomb shelters.

On June 16, the Israel Defense Forces’ chief of staff said the army will act to protect Syrian refugees from being slaughtered by the Islamic State, or ISIS.

In a Knesset hearing, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said the IDF will provide humanitarian aid and security for fleeing Syrian refugees, the Times of Israel reported.

Also on June 16, the IDF declared the northeast portion of the Golan Heights a closed military zone, preventing nonresidents of the area, including tourists, from entering. The closure is meant to “ensure the required safety level,” the IDF said in a statement. It follows intense fighting between government forces and rebels on the Golan border.

On June 15, thousands of Israeli Druze demonstrated on behalf of their Syrian counterparts, 20 of whom were murdered by ISIS last week. The Israeli Druze community announced that it had collected $2.6 million for the Syrian Druze to purchase weapons and urged the Israeli government to offer additional assistance, according to the Times of Israel. — jta & ap