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200 SYRIANS GATHER AT ISRAEL'S BORDER, FLEE REGIME OFFENSIVE
Waving white flags, group returned to displaced persons camp near village of Bariqa.
JULY 17, 2018 13:13
Scores of displaced Syrians, some waving white flags, briefly approached within 200 meters of the frontier fence along the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights on Tuesday before IDF soldiers ordered them to go back.
“You are on the border of the State of Israel. Go back. We don’t want to hurt you,” the soldier shouted in Arabic through a loudspeaker at the crowd, live Reuters TV footage showed.
The Syrians, approaching from Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, appeared to be seeking sanctuary from the current offensive led by Syrian President Bashar Assad to retake rebel-held territory in the southern part of the country.
A spokeswoman for the Israeli military said the IDF was closely monitoring the situation, and that there were no exceptional events. The Syrians turned back after Israeli soldiers shouted at them to do so, she added.
The refugees reportedly returned to an IDP camp in the village of Bariqa after they crossed one of the 1974 ceasefire lines west of Tel al-Harra, a strategic hill which overlooks Israel’s Golan Heights.
The IDPs have been sheltering between the Alpha and Bravo cease-fire lines in an area under observation by the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF).
Syrian regime forces backed by Shia militias and Russian aerial bombing have advanced against rebel groups and retaken territory next to the Israeli border which has been under rebel control for the past four years.
In addition to retaking the main border crossing between Damascus and the Jordanian capital of Amman, the Syrian regime has retaken dozens of villages in the Deraa province. On Sunday, the regime seized Tel al-Harra, an important hill that dominates the border area. Fighting continued near the border area on Monday.
Thousands of Syrians have fled towards the Israeli border on the Golan Heights seeking a safe zone. According to the UN, more than 120,000 Syrians have fled their homes due to the current regime offensive. Many have clustered near Quneitra, hoping that since the border area is a no-fly zone they will be safe from air raids or further regime advances.
On Monday, a monitor reported that eight civilians, including women and children, were killed when an Assad regime helicopter dropped barrel bombs in a school sheltering internally displaced people in the village of Ein al-Tena in the southern suburbs of Quneitra.
Also on Monday, several dozen IDPs were seen on video approaching the fence north of al-Rafeed.
Dalton Thomas, founder of the American evangelical group FAI Relief which is providing aid to the displaced Syrians, said that he thinks the numbers approaching the border fence will likely grow.
“Right now FAI is the only aid group on the ground. Our resources are being depleted as fast as we can raise the alarm.” Over the weekend the WHO called for greater access to health care for the IDPs.
Despite unconfirmed reports that Israel and the UN have been in talks to set up safe-zones for Syrians along the border, Israel has made it clear that no Syrian refugees will be granted entry. Israel will continue providing humanitarian aid.
As the offensive draws closer to Israel’s Golan Heights, Jerusalem has stressed that the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement between it and Damascus be upheld, and that the demilitarized buffer zone along the border be respected.
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FEAR AND UNCERTAINTY GRIP SYRIANS SHELTERING NEAR ISRAEL BORDER
With Jordan's border sealed, FAI Relief workers in Syria say Syrians are begging for more aid to be re-directed via Israel.
JULY 12, 2018 05:32
“No one knows where it’s going,” said Dalton Thomas, founder and president of FAI Relief, as he checks on the tens of thousands of internally displaced Syrians seeking shelter alongside Israel’s Golan Heights border fence.
Since Jordan sealed its frontier with Syria last month after the Assad regime escalated its offensive against Deraa and rebel-held areas in the south, refugees near the Golan Heights have become completely reliant on aid transiting Israel, Thomas said. The crisis is likely to worsen regardless of whether the fighting continues in southern Syria, he cautioned.
FAI Relief, standing for Frontier Alliance International, is an evangelical Christian aid agency Thomas founded in Ellerslie, Georgia in 2012. The ministry has been working in Syria since 2017, partnering with Israel’s Operation Good Neighbor on medical missions to save lives and aid refugees.
In recent weeks its humanitarian aid has included 300 tents and more than 50 tons of aid, some donated by Israelis. Nic Walsh, an FAI Relief team leader, said she has seen the fear and uncertainty gripping the south Syrian refugees.
“People struggle to eat and sleep, and get their heads around the idea that this is the end,” she said. For them the “end” means the conclusion of the Syrian civil war that erupted in 2011 in Deraa in which more than 500,000 people have died. Now the regime, backed by Russia’s air force and Iranian-supported militias, is closing in on the rebels’ remaining pockets.
“We have been visiting people and encouraging them, letting them know we are still going to be here and support them,” she said.
Thomas noted that the situation for Syria’s internally displaced people has dramatically deteriorated in recent weeks after supply lines from Jordan were cut off. Since 2011 almost one million Syrians have fled to Jordan while humanitarian aid flowed north from Amman. But when the Syrian regime offensive began in early July, Jordan sealed its border stopping the aid.
Israel, which has been treating wounded Syrians over the course of the war, does not have an aid operation or international NGOs to pick up from Jordan. But with the most recent internally displaced people sheltering in Syrian villages around Quneitra, those IDPs are relying heavily on aid from the Israeli side, said Thomas.
“People are saying there is a ton of aid stuck in Jordan, and are appealing for this aid to go through Israel... The locals see Israel as the lifeline,” he added.
On Tuesday, Syrians with signs “appealing to the humanity to open the border” called on Israel to provide more relief aid. They claimed Russia has given a “green light” to murder them, and that “Israel should work to stop barbaric attacks against us now.”
With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Wednesday, their appeal has taken on added urgency.
Thomas said medical clinics on the Syrian side of the Golan are half stocked, and that there is a “gaping hole” in the humanitarian needs. “There are hundreds of thousands of people in this region, and they are cut off,” he noted.
FAI Relief is trying to infuse hope amid the sorrow of war, he said.
“Regardless of what happens with the [Assad] regime, if it comes [down to the Golan border] there is no way the people in these communities will get what they need. They will be in just as dire a situation the day after as they were six months ago.”
No one will win in this conflict, Thomas warned. “The work actually begins the day after. We need to take terminology like ‘winning’ and ‘ending’ out of our vocabulary. It [the conflict] will just transform into new strife.”
This article originally appeared on The Jerusalem Post website.