Israeli operation assisting thousands of Syrians harmed by civil war


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israeli military said an operation it started a year ago has treated thousands of Syrians and provided thousands of tons of aid to Syrians dealing with its nation’s civil war.

The Israel Defense Forces announced its “Operation Good Neighbor” on Wednesday, saying it has a “moral imperative” to provide aid to the Syrians on the country’s northern border.

Israel has largely tried to stay out of the more than 6-year war in Syria and has in the past downplayed the amount of assistance it has provided for the country’s civilians on the border.

The first activities coordinated by the Northern Command headquarters took place in August 2016, the IDF said in a statement, and since then there have been more than 110 aid operations

The primary recipients of the aid are the approximately 200,000 residents of the Hauran region of southwestern Syria. About 400 families live in tents near the Israel-Syria border, with the rest living in villages or out in the open. A third of the aid recipients are displaced persons or refugees and half of them are under the age of 18, according to the IDF.

Over 4,000 people have been brought to Israel to receive medical treatment, among them hundreds of children, the IDF said. The military also transfers medicine, supplies and equipment to Syrians across the border. An internationally managed field hospital has also been established at an Israeli outpost near the border, according to the IDF.

“Based on my 20-year medical career, I can truly say that the medical care we have provided to our neighbors here in the north of Israel is one of the most significant efforts to treat those in need that I have ever witnessed,” Col. Dr. Noam Fink, the chief medical officer of the Northern Command, said in a statement. “I deeply hope that our contribution will have a direct impact on the lives of our Syrian neighbors.”

Dozens of mortars and gunfire from Syria have landed on Israel, most in the Golan Heights, believed to be accidental spillover from the country’s civil war. The IDF has responded to those with return fire.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Israel has been secretly providing aid to Syrian rebels on the border in the Golan Heights for several years, including cash, food, fuel and medical supplies, and has established a military unit that oversees the support in Syria.

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