Middle East

Thousands of Israeli Druze rally, raise funds, calling on government to help brothers in Syria

Israel intends to create a humanitarian buffer zone inside Syria, along its border, in order to help that country's Druze, according to the Walla News web site. Israel is in contact with the Red Cross and various countries regarding the buffer zone.

A diplomatic source told Walla that "there is no intention to ignore the possibility of a massacre against the Druze." Several weeks ago a senior Israeli military official, briefing reporters, also said "Israel would not stand idle if it sees a massacre."

A Red Cross spokeswoman declined to confirm or deny the report, but added that the organization is "holding a confidential dialog with various sources".

Israel has been providing medical treatment to Syrians injured as a result of the fighting at a military field hospital on the Golan Heights and at Israeli hospitals.

Israel has also asked the United States to increase its aid to the embattled Druze community in Syria, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported Sunday.

The request was made last week to the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, on his visit to Israel. According to Haaretz, while Israel is unlikely to intervene on the Syrian Druze’s behalf in the Jabal Druze region of southern Syria, it is prepared to offer humanitarian aid to residents of the Druze village of Khadr, which lies close to the Israeli border.

The Israeli Druze community is deeply concerned about the fate of the Druze minority in Syria, warning that about 500,000 of them are under threat. Thousands rallied across several Druze villages Saturday calling on the government to help the Syrian Druze. Israel Radio reported that an intensive fund-raising drive in recent days among the Druze has generated NIS8 million (almost $2 million).

One Israeli Druze from the village of Mas'ada in the Golan Heights told the Israeli news site Ynet: "I have family and friends who I'm very worried about and I try to help them in any way I can. I hope that the State of Israel will help them and let them come to Mas'ada. We are all ready to take them into our homes."

Ynet Courtesy

The community’s leaders have recently met with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot to warn them of the danger to the Druze in Syria should the rebels advance further south. The Druze elders also met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah this week and asked for his help.

One leading Druze figure, Jaber Hamed, the head of the Sajur Council and Chairman of the Forum of the Druze and Circassian Authority, called on Israel to help prevent a "Druze Holocaust" in Syria.

"Our streets are boiling with fury, and we are afraid things have spiraled out of control,"

"We are in immediate danger, without reason. Therefore, we call on all leaders, including our Muslim brothers, to unite in joining our call for all factions in Syria to stop the massacre of Druse and others," Jaber stressed, adding "who more than the Jewish people should understand what we are going through these days, as a minority in the world."

AFP/Ahmad Gharabli

According to Haaretz, a delegation of Israeli Druze officers will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday to discuss recent events in Syria. Israeli Druze MK and Deputy Minister of Regional Cooperation Ayoub Kara told Haaretz that "it is important to emphasize that we are working in this context as a [ethnic] community, not as the government of Israel," Ayoub said, adding that "all assistance that will be given [to Syria’s Druze] will be by fellow Druze, and I know that the Druze of Syria know how to defend themselves."

Mendi Safadi, an Israeli Druze who in the past served as Deputy Regional Cooperation Minister Ayoub Kara’s chief of staff, told the Jerusalem Post that for the time there isn't a risk of Syrian Druze fleeing to Israel, but Israel needs to be ready for that situation if it happens," he added.

Sheikh Maufak Tarif, the head of the Druze community in Israel, told the Jerusalem Post last week that the country’s Druze call on the governments of Israel and the US to prevent a catastrophe for their brethren in Syria.

“We request that the Americans would attack Islamic State in this area, just as it is doing in other parts of Syria,” Tarif said.

Haim Zach

Several Lebanese political leaders, condemning the killings by al-Nusra, warned that the Druze in Lebanon and Syria are ready to fight the group.

Lebanon's Naharet quoted Arab Tawhid Party chief Wiam Wahhab warning that they "will all take up arms, here and elsewhere, and anyone on Lebanese soil who has ties to al-Nusra Front or is collaborating with it is unwelcome, and they better leave this land because the reactions cannot be contained."

“We have the ability to create an army comprising more than 200,000 Druze from Syria, Lebanon and the world to defend" the Syrian province of Sweida, which has a large Druze population, Wahhab stated.

Al-Qaida's Syria branch tries to reassure Druze after shoot-out

Al-Qaida’s Syria affiliate said on Saturday it would prosecute members involved in an shoot-out in northwest Idlib province that killed at least 20 members of the country’s Druze minority.

In an official statement published on Twitter, Al-Nusra Front sought to allay fears of further attacks on minorities, saying that some of its members acted “in clear violation of the leadership’s views.”

Twitter

On Thursday, residents of the village of Qalb Lawzah protested after a Tunisian Al-Nusra leader tried to seize a Druze man’s home, accusing him of being loyal to the Syrian regime, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“The Tunisian leader gathered his men and accused the Druze residents of the village of blasphemy and opened fire on them killing at least 20 people, among them elderly people and at least one child,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

In its statement, Al-Nusra said it had immediately dispatched a committee to Qalb Lawzah to “reassure the residents that what happened was unjustifiable.”

“This village and its people are still safe under our protection and in areas under our control. Everyone who was involved in this incident will be referred to an Islamic court and will be held accountable,” the militant group said.

The incident in the village of Qalb al-Lawzah was also condemned by the Southern Front, who issued a statement Thursday pledging not to fight against the Druze.

(with AFP)

Read more: Israel must help the Druze in Syria create an independent state

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