Israel mulling hosting Syrian refugees

Jerusalem, June 17 (IANS) Israel is considering the possibility of hosting refugees from Syria, particularly from neighbouring Druze villages, even though it is technically at war with that country, media reported on Wednesday.

Israeli chief of staff Gen. Gadi Eisenkot instructed the Israeli armed forces to remain vigilant in securing the border with Syria, which has been mired in conflict for four years in which more than 220,000 people have been killed and about 11 million have been displaced either internally or abroad, Efe news agency reported.

In a hearing held on Tuesday before the parliamentary committee for foreign affairs and defence, Eisenkot said that the Israeli army would do everything in its power to prevent the killing of Syrians taking refuge near the Israeli border.

The military official said there was concern about the situation in the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967, as well as about the internal conflict in Syria.

Eisenkot equally expressed concern that the Israeli army has to face the flow of Syrian refugees along the border.

The Israeli military cordoned off the northeastern part of the Golan Heights for a few hours on Tuesday, declaring it a “closed military zone” following demonstrations of Druze living on the Israeli side concerned about the fate of the people of their community across the border.

A military official quoted by Israeli public radio said Israel has been analysing the possibility of hosting refugees close to the border areas since the start of fighting in Syria in 2011.

The official added that Israel would assist refugees and ensure security in the area without entering Syria.

However, he said that Israel has no intention of harbouring long-term potential refugees due to the risk of internal strife in their country.

Thousands of people demonstrated on Saturday in Druze villages, under Israeli control, calling on Israel and the international community to take concrete steps to help the Syrian Druze community, under threat of suffering the ravages of Islamic State, Islamist militant groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda, and other rebels in the civil war that Syria has endured since 2011.

Israel is the only country neighbouring Syria to have not been affected by the massive influx of refugees from the conflict.

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