Netanyahu urges US to increase aid for Syrian Druze community
Twenty members of Syria's Druze community were executed by Nusra Front militants in Idlib earlier this week. (AFP/File)
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week urged Gen. Martin Dempsey to boost US aid to Syria’s increasingly embattled Druze minority, Haaretz reported Saturday night.
The request was lodged with the US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman during the military chief’s Jerusalem visit, and after Israel ruled out direct involvement in Jabal al-Druze. The area, which lies deep in Syrian territory, faces attack by the Islamic State from the east and Al-Nusra front from the west, the report said.
Israel did not, however, nix sending aid to the Druze community in Khadr, on the Syrian Golan Heights, it said.
Meanwhile, thousands of Druze Israelis held protests in northern Israel on Saturday in an appeal to the Israeli government to assist their brethren across the border. Members of Israel’s Druze minority, many of whom have relatives and friends in Syria, were collecting money, clothes, food, and other staples to send across the border, the Ynet news website reported. The marches on Saturday drew large crowds, with participants chanting “We will not be silent in the face of the slaughter,” and threatening to launch an open-ended strike.
The Druze Zionist Council on Saturday penned a letter to Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, urging Israel to avert a Druze “holocaust” by jihadists.
“Non-involvement in Syria will result in a Druze holocaust under our very noses, and who like Israel knows what a holocaust and genocide is,” wrote council head Atta Farhat, according to Channel 10.
“As a major in the IDF on behalf of the Druze community, I was sent and would be sent on any mission to rescue our Jewish brothers anywhere in the world, to safeguard or extract them,” he wrote. “I salute this and fulfill this order for the sake of humanity, the state, and our IDF. To the same degree, and in order to prevent a Druze holocaust in Syria, I would expect that this is how my country would act — if only for the simple reason of averting genocide.”
Lebanon’s political leader of the Druze community tried on Friday to calm members of neighboring Syria’s minority sect after a deadly al-Qaeda raid there killed as many as 20 Druze villagers.
Walid Jumblatt said the attack earlier this week on Qalb Lawzeh village in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province was an “individual” incident. Syria’s al-Qaeda branch, the Nusra Front, killed at least 20 Druze members there on Wednesday.
On Saturday, the al-Nusra Front said members who participated in the killing of Druze villagers in northern Syria acted in violation of orders and would be punished.
Jumblatt on Friday added that the Druze in Syria were not seeking assistance from Israel. “We do not need neither Assad nor Israel,” he said during a press conference in Beirut, according to Haaretz. “Both sides are talking in a sectarian tone, which aims to perpetuate sectarianism and divide the country.”
The Idlib killings were the deadliest since Syria’s civil war started in March 2011 against the minority Druze sect, which has been split between supporters and opponents of President Bashar Assad — but has largely stayed out of the fighting.
Jumblatt, a harsh critic of Assad, warned that any incitement “will endanger the Druze of Syria,” adding that Assad’s forces kill dozens of people every day in Syria.
“There will be no political solution for Syria with Assad,” Jumblatt said, speaking after a meeting of the Druze religious leadership in Beirut that was attended by dozens of clerics. “He has taken Syria to destruction.”
The spiritual leader of the Lebanese Druze community, Sheikh Naim Hassan, expressed condolences over the killings.
“We stand in silence, pain and sympathy with our people on Qalb Lawzeh. We pray for the martyrs,” he said after the Beirut meeting.
On Thursday, Wiam Wahhab, a Lebanese Druze politician close to Assad, called on all the Druze in the southern Syrian province of Sweida to carry arms and defend their villages, as opposition fighters reached the region that has been spared Syria’s four-year civil war.
Wahhab urged Assad’s government to supply the residents with weapons. He also warned of attacks against Nusra Front members in Lebanon in retaliation for the killings in Qalb Lawzeh.
In northern Lebanon, Syrian troops on Friday shot dead a Lebanese citizen and his Syrian cousin in the border region of Wadi Khaled, according to state-run National News Agency that quoted a mayor in the area.
NNA said the two farmers were shot shortly after they returned into Lebanon from the nearby Syrian village of Arida.