Syrians fleeing war will not be allowed in Israel: Netanyahu

Jerusalem: Civilians fleeing Syria’s war will not be allowed to enter Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday adding however that his government will continue providing them with humanitarian aid.

Tens of thousands of Syrians have fled a government offensive in the country’s south that started on June 19 and some have set up makeshift camps near the Israeli-held Golan Heights.

“Regarding southern Syria, we will continue to defend our borders,” Netanyahu said at the start of a cabinet meeting.

“We will extend humanitarian assistance to the extent of our abilities. We will not allow entry into our territory.”

Separately, Israel’s military said Sunday it had sent reinforcements to the Golan out of precaution.

Israel has long had a programme in place providing humanitarian aid to Syrians across the fence in the Golan. It has also provided medical treatment to wounded Syrians.

On Friday, Israel’s military said it had mounted a nighttime operation across the armistice line with Syria.

It said it delivered 300 tents, 13 tonnes of food and 15 tonnes of baby food in that operation, as well as medical equipment and clothing to four of the camps in the Syrian part of the Golan.

Six Syrians, including four children, were also transported into Israel and provided with medical treatment on Friday night, the military said.

An Israeli military official said the army worked with NGOs to provide humanitarian aid. Soldiers open the gate and leave the aid for the NGOs without entering the Syrian side, the official told journalists.

Those given medical treatment are transported to the fence, where they are met by Israeli troops.

Since June 19, backed by its ally Russia, the Damascus regime has carried out a deadly bombing campaign in southern Syria as it pushes to retake the strategic area bordering Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan.

The spike in violence over the past two weeks has forced around 160,000 people to flee their homes, according to initial United Nations estimates.

These include around 20,000 to areas near the Naseeb border crossing with Jordan, a country that already hosts more than 650,000 registered Syrian refugees and says the actual figure is closer to 1.3 million.

Amman has said it cannot open its frontier to any more Syrians fleeing the seven-year conflict, but on Saturday announced it had sent aid across the border to the displaced.

Israel seized a large swathe of the Golan Heights and adjacent areas from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967. It annexed that territory in 1981, a move never recognised by the international community.

Agence France-Presse