Druze Spiritual Leader: Ambulance Lynching Against Druze Values

June 24, 2015  

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with leaders of Israel’s Druze community Wednesday, in the wake of a mob attack on an IDF ambulance carrying casualties of the Syrian civil war which left one injured Syrian dead.

Israeli police said Wednesday they had carried out a wave of arrests of suspects involved in two separate attacks on Monday by Druze on military vehicles transporting wounded Syrians to hospital.  

Nine Druze were arrested over the attacks Monday, with the second attack killing a Syrian and wounding another in the Golan Heights. Earlier that same say an ambulance was stoned in the Galilee town of Hurfesh.

“An extensive wave of arrests was conducted overnight of suspects involved in two incidents of attacking military ambulances near Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights and near Hurfesh,” a statement said.  

An extension on the arrest will be discussed for several of the suspects at the Nazareth Magistrate’s Court.

In the incident in Hurfesh, the identity of at least one of the attackers was known to the police, as he was run over by the ambulance he was attacking and brought for medical treatment at a hospital in Nahariya.

The incident shocked many in Israel, as one of the Syrian nationals was murdered in the Majdal Shams attack and another Syrian was critically wounded, while the two IDF soldiers in the ambulance were lightly wounded.

On Tuesday it was revealed that an IDF soldier may have passed information to the Druze and thereby set off the attack.

Further details of the investigations into both incidents remain under a gag order.

Syria’s Druze minority are traditional allies of President Bashar al-Assad, though the bloody civil war has tested their allegiance to him. Now, many Druze are trying to maintain neutrality, nervously eyeing the advance of jihadist groups like Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and ISIS.

On June 10 at least 20 Syrian Druze were reportedly killed in an unprecedented shoot-out with Al-Nusra Front in northwestern Syria.

The rioters on Monday likely believed the men in the ambulance were jihadist rebels and attacked them in revenge for the killings.

Syria has said the two men attacked in the ambulance were members of Al-Nusra Front. Israel says they were civilians.

Druze leaders have pressed Israel to take a more active role in the Syrian war, but Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon reiterated that no internal pressures or acts of violence would “drag us into a war that is not ours.”  

“We will continue to provide humanitarian aid to women, children and wounded people who reach the field hospital we set up along the border in the wake of the difficult situation,” he said at an IT security conference in Tel Aviv.

Israel does not rule out the possibility that some of those given medical care are rebels.  

However, Israel has promised that it will not allow rebels to commit a massacre against Druze along its border with southern Syria.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has described the Golan Heights killing as a “lynching” and vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice.

He met Wednesday with local Druze leaders, who roundly condemned the attack.  

He urged leaders to “continue to act to ensure the security of the state, and to allow soldiers to carry out their duties,” according to a statement released after the meeting.

“We need to protect our country from the chaos unfolding around us,” he said.  

The spiritual leader of the Israeli Druze, Sheikh Muwafaq Tarif, was quoted in the same statement as condemning the ambulance attack, which he said was “contrary to Druze values.”

The Druze are a secretive offshoot of Shiite Islam. Officials say there are 130,000 of them in northern Israel, 20,000 of whom live in the Israeli Golan Heights.

AFP contributed to this report.

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