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Israel continues to treat wounded Syrians

Although Israel and Syria have regarded each other as enemies since 1948, seven more severely wounded Syrians were admitted to Israeli hospitals last week.

Since 2013 Israel has treated a reported 3,000 Syrian civilians injured in the civil war that continues to rage next door to the Jewish state. The Times of Israel reported that on Thursday night last week, an IDF medical corps unit met a further two children, four women and one man waiting at the Quneitra crossing in the Golan Heights. Two of the patients were in such bad condition that a helicopter was called for to rush them to hospital, while the remainder of the group of seven were hurried into armored ambulances and driven into northern Israel for intensive care.

Syria was one of the armies Israel faced during its 1948 War of Independence. Syria has never recognized Israel as a state, the two nations have never had diplomatic relations and Israel generally prohibits its citizens from traveling there.

Nevertheless, as the civil war has raged on just a short distance from Israel’s border with Syria, Israeli soldiers on patrol of the area have come across wounded civilians and have felt compelled to help. Since 2013, it has become an almost nightly occurrence for Syrian wounded to come to certain spots on the border with Israel to be taken to receive treatment.

Captain Aviad Camis, deputy chief medical officers of the Golan brigade, told reporters in January that the army is doing everything it can to save the lives of the Syrians brave enough to seek help from Israel.

“Some of the stories stir your emotions. When children come, as a father, it touches me personally,” Camis said.

Another IDF spokesman, Lt.Col. Peter Lerner, said the IDF’s guiding principle is “sanctity of human life.”

“The humanitarian efforts are focused in providing medical aid to the Syrians in need,” he said. “When our forces see men, women and children in need, they see it as their moral obligation and professional responsibility to lend a helping hand.”

The Ziv hospital in the northern Israeli city of Safed has taken in hundreds of Syrian patients since 2013.

“Everyone has the absolute similar color of blood. It’s bleeding people, suffering people, and if I can help, I must help,” the hospital’s chief orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Alexander Lerner, has told reporters.

In light of Syrian President Basher Assad’s recent resort to the use of chemical weapons against his own people, an attack highlighted in KNI and in light of President Trump’s air strike on a Syrian airbase in response, Israel is preparing to receive even more wounded Syrians.

It is extraordinary that these wounded come to Israel for care after having been taught their whole lives that Israel is their enemy. Remarkably, the tragic circumstances under which the Syrians have come has resulted in dramatic changes to their perceptions of Israel and the Jews.

“In the past we used to know Israel as our enemy. That’s what the [Assad] regime used to tell us. When we came to Israel we changed our minds, there is no enmity between us,” said one young Syrian man being treated at Ziv. “In the end we discovered that our regime is the enemy of us all.”

Related articles:
Israel to take in 100 Syrian orphans
The Joseph Project donates medical aid to Syrians
Raised to hate Israel, Syrian refugee’s website thanks Israel

Karen Faulkner
Karen Faulkner is a British Israeli citizen. She has a Master's degree in Human Rights & Transitional Justice from Hebrew University, Jerusalem.

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