Israeli military says ready to protect Druze village in Syria

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 03, 2017 7:48 AM

JERUSALEM/BEIRUT (Reuters) - Israel's military said on Friday it was ready to protect a frontier village in Syria held by the Syrian government where Damascus said jihadist rebels exploded a car killing at least nine people.

The statement was an unusually explicit Israeli pledge to intervene in the war in Syria, where Israeli officials are voicing deeper alarm at the role of Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah, which are fighting alongside the Syrian government.

The Israeli air force says it has struck arms convoys of the Syrian military and Hezbollah nearly 100 times in recent years. Its most recent strike was on Wednesday according to the Syrian government.

The Quneitra area of Syria, where Hader village is located, is particularly sensitive to Israel because it is adjacent to the Golan Heights area that it captured from Syria in 1967.

Syrian rebel groups launched an attack on Syrian government-held areas in Quneitra on Friday, with the aim of connecting two insurgent-held areas.

The attack included the car bomb in Hader, which Syrian state media attributed to the jihadist group formerly known as the Nusra Front.

Syrian state media accused Israel of giving various kinds of support to the Nusra Front. In its statement, the Israeli military denied any involvement with jihadist groups in the fighting.

Hader is populated by members of the Druze, a minority religious sect found in Syria, Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Lebanon.

Syrian state television broadcast footage it said was of residents of Israeli-held areas of the Golan Heights attempting to cross the border to assist people in Hader.

"The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) is prepared and ready to assist the residents of the village and prevent damage to or the capture of the village Hader out of commitment to the Druze population," the military said in a statement.

Israeli officials have previously said they were looking at the possibility of assisting Hadar, whose residents have Druze kinsman lobbying on their behalf in Israel.

(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem and Angus McDowall in Beirut; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)