One killed as Druze residents in Golan Heights attack Israeli ambulance

One killed as Druze residents in Golan Heights attack Israeli ambulance
A member of the Druze minority carries the Druze flag as several men walk near the border with Syria in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. (Ariel Schalit / Associated Press)

Druze protesters in the Golan Heights on Monday attacked an Israeli military ambulance transferring men wounded in the Syrian civil war to a hospital, killing one Syrian and injuring another as well as two Israeli soldiers.

The ambulance was making its way from the border area of Mt. Hermon with at least two wounded Syrians when it was ambushed by an angry crowd of Druze residents protesting Israel's medical treatment of rebel forces, according to media reports.


The protesters stormed the ambulance between the Druze village of Majdal Shams and the Israeli community of Neve Ativ and pulled the Syrians out of the vehicle, killing one and gravely injuring another.

Two Israeli soldiers, one a military doctor, were injured in the incident. It wasn't immediately clear whether the two Syrians were civilians or rebel fighters.

Police and army forces arrived on the scene while protests continued in Majdal Shams.  Israel's military is reportedly taking steps to increase protection of Syrians being treated in Israeli hospitals.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the perpetrators would be brought to justice.

"We will not allow anyone to take the law into their own hands or interfere with the army's assignments," Netanyahu said, and he urged the Druze leadership to calm the air immediately.

Israeli army Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkott convened an urgent consultation after the incident. "It is impossible that IDF soldiers and injured will be attacked by Israeli citizens," he said.

Israel has treated thousands of injured Syrians in recent years. Many are civilians but rebels receive medical treatment too, contributing to belief on both sides of the border that Israel is aiding rebel forces.

Israel insists it extends only humanitarian aid and is otherwise not involved in the fighting in Syria.

The Druze sect is an offshoot of Islam that has adherents in Syria, Israel and Lebanon. Syria is believed to be home to about half of the estimated 1.5 million Druze in the world.

Ayoub Kara, deputy minister of regional development and a Druze, said all Israelis identify with the concerns over the danger faced by Druze in Syria, but there was no excuse for attacking the ambulance.

"To my regret, we as Druze lost Israel's sympathy because of this grave and unnecessary attack, which has no place in a country ruled by the law," Kara said.

Sobelman is a special correspondent.