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March 27: Israel and Syrian Refugees

March 26, 2016

Israel-border-fence-008The northern command of the Israel Defense Force announced on this date in 2014 that Syrians approaching the Golan border fence separating the Golan Heights from Syria would be fired on with live ammunition. Two years earlier, according to Crystal Plotner in Forced Migration Review, “the Israeli government stated it was making preparations to accept Syrian refugees in the Golan Heights as it anticipated the impending fall of the Assad regime.” Given the involvement of Hezbollah and other enemies of Israel in the Syrian melt-down, however, “six months later, the Israeli Defense Minister asserted that any refugees attempting to cross the border into the Golan Heights would be stopped.... Israel has undertaken quick and thorough measures to re-fortify the eight-metre-high, 90-kilometre-long fence along the ceasefire line between the occupied Golan and Syria... The Israeli military has also indicated that it would lay new minefields along the border...” Nevertheless, about 100 Syrians per month who have sought medical aid at a field hospital in the Golan Heights have been treated by Israel, and some have been transferred to hospitals inside Israel before being repatriated, willingly or not, to Syria. The Golan Heights itself has about 40,000 residents, half of them Jews and half of them Syrian Arabs. “As the area has a low population density and abundant natural resources,” notes Plotner, “there is an adequate amount of land (controlled by Israel) that could accommodate a substantial number of Syrian IDPs [internally displaced people]. Indigenous Syrians in the Golan have openly voiced their support for taking in their displaced kin and neighbors from across the armistice line, and should these displaced people decide to return to urban areas of Syria once the conflict subsides, it is possible that seeking refuge as IDPs in the Golan would be less stigmatised than seeking asylum within the borders of Israel.”

“Israel’s government is in cahoots with Syrian President Bashar Assad. America wants to keep the Syrian civil war going for as long as possible.... Those are some of the viewpoints you’re likely to hear if you talk politics with Syrians pouring out of their war-torn country and into Europe.” —Uriel Heilman, JTA