Israel rushes reinforcements to the Golan Heights as Syrian rebel refugees set up camp next to the border fence

Anshel Pfeffer visits the hills overlooking the Israeli-Syrian border to see the makeshift camps springing up on the other side


GOLAN HEIGHTS — Israel rushed reinforcements to the Golan border region at the beginning of this week, leaving thousands of Syrian refugees on the other side resigned to camping out just next to the fence.

Their belief was that they would be safe there from bombardment by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and the Russian air force.

“We haven’t seen anyone trying to get all the way to the border fence,” an IDF officer said at an observation post overlooking two makeshift refugee camps which sprang up over the weekend.

“They also know that there are minefields next to the border and hopefully no one will risk crossing them.”

UN observers estimate over quarter of a million Syrian civilians have been displaced in recent days as the Syrian government, with the help of Russia, tries to take back the southwestern Daraa region from rebel hands.

Most have fled to the closer Jordanian border, but thousands have made the more arduous trek to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to take shelter under the watchful eyes of the IDF positions.

On Monday, constant artillery bombardment continued as a trickle of refugees was still arriving.

But the shells all fell short of the border zone by at least two miles.

A senior Israeli officer in charge of humanitarian operations on the border stressed that “Israel is not intervening in the war in Syria” and that it had not established a buffer zone on the Syrian side of the border.

But he added that it was no coincidence that this area has been bombarded in recent years much less than other areas in Syria.

Those arriving certainly believe it is a safe-zone and have said so in interviews.

Officially, Syria remains an enemy state and the Israeli government is concerned of the possibility of an attempt by large numbers of Syrian refugees to enter.

On Sunday morning, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the weekly cabinet meeting that “we will continue defending our borders, we will provide humanitarian aid as best we can, we will not allow entry to our territories.”

However, Israel has allowed wounded Syrians to cross the border. Over the past five years, it has treated over 4,000 in Israeli hospitals and clinics.

On the night between Thursday and Friday, the IDF delivered a special aid shipment including three hundred tents and over twenty tons of food, medical supplies and clothes for the refugees in the camps.

More shipments are planned throughout the week.

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