Israel will not intervene in Syria to help Druze threatened by extremists

Leaders of Israel’s Druze community voiced their concern as Syrian Druze areas come under threat from extremist groups. (File: AP)

Israel decided against intervening to help members of the Druze community in neighboring Syria as the religious minority comes under threat from extremist groups such as Al Nusra Front in light of recent attacks, Israeli daily Haartez reported Friday.

After two weeks of discussion, Israeli government and army leaders reached a consensus to stay out of Syria as it would constitute direct involvement in the civil war, now in its fourth year.

Leaders of Israel’s Druze community voiced their concern in a meeting with Israeli President Reiven Rivlin and army Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot warning them of the dangers that would materialize should rebels advance further into Druze areas in Syria and towards the Israeli border.

The Druze village of Khadr, on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, is of special concern due to its proximity to the Israeli border.

Separately, a number of Syrian Druze leaders warned of an existential threat facing their kin after Nusra Front fighters shot dead 20 people in a Druze village in northwestern Syria on Wednesday - an incident ignited by Nusra’s attempt to confiscate a house.

Groups battling President Bashar Al Assad that do not share the Nusra Front’s extremist ideology are trying to calm Druze fears. They say Assad, a member of the minority Alawite faith, is seeking to exploit those fears to shore up support, according to Reuters news agency.

Also on Friday, Syrian Druze helped halt a rebel attack on an army base in the south, responding to a call to arms to confront insurgents including Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front.

Druze leaders had issued a call to arms in Sweida this week, alarmed by advances from the west and also from the east, where the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been attacking the army.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based organization that tracks the war, said on Friday rebels had been driven from the base which they had partly captured on Thursday by air strikes and Druze fighters from nearby Sweida city.

A Druze leader from Sweida said young men from Sweida had helped recapture the disused al-Thala airbase, responding to a call to arms issued on Tuesday. A rebel leader confirmed that the government side had sent reinforcements to the base.

Their role was key in repelling the attack on the base, said Rami Abdulrahman, who runs Observatory. “If they hadn’t mobilized, (the insurgents) wouldn’t have been repelled,” he said. “There is a rebel retreat.”

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Last Update: 21:42 KSA 00:42 - GMT 21:42
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