Netanyahu pledges “all necessary action” to protect Druze as Syrian fighting intensifies

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that all necessary action will be taken to protect Syria’s Druze minority near Israel’s border with the nearby town of Hader reportedly encircled by Islamist fighters.

Speaking at the Knesset, in response to a question from Yisrael Beitenu MK Hamad Amer, himself a Druze citizen, Netanyahu said “We are vigilantly following all that is being done along our borders, and my instruction is to take all action necessary.” Although he did not elaborate on what action might be taken if Syrian Druze are harmed, Netanyahu’s comments follow a pledge by IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, who told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee that “We will take measures to prevent a situation where refugees are massacred. Our action would be humanitarian.”

Last week it was reported that at least 20 Syrian Druze were massacred by the al-Qaeda-affiliated opposition group, the al-Nusra Front. It prompted fears that the Syrian Druze, who have remained impartial during the conflict, are being increasingly targeted. Over the weekend, thousands of Israeli Druze took part in rallies in Yarka and Daliat al-Carmel calling for international intervention on behalf of their Syrian brethren. Many have family in the Syrian areas being threatened by Islamist groups.

Yesterday, it was reported that Hader, which is home to a significant number of Druze and straddles the ceasefire line between Syria and Israel, has been surrounded by Islamists. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP “Hader is now totally surrounded by rebels, who just took a strategic hilltop north of the village.” As fighting intensified, rocket sirens sounded in the nearby Israeli communities of Alonei Habashan and Ein Zivan, prompting residents to flee for cover.

Anticipating that Syrian Druze might flee towards Israel’s border, media reports have suggested that Israel is talking to other countries and the International Red Cross about the possibility of establishing a “safe zone” for refugees on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.

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