Israel, both hesitant to take in masses of refugees and fearful of a genocide at its border, is considering a “safe zone” for Druze people threatened by the violence in Syria.
The Jewish State has reportedly been in contact with the United Nations and the International Red Cross to form a humanitarian zone within the borders of Syria. The Red Cross has refused to comment, but sources in Israel have said it would not ignore a genocide at its border. The government is receiving extra pressure from its own Druze minority, which is pleading and protesting for international assistance.
The Druze are an ethnoreligious group defined by a unique theology that incorporates many disparate elements, such as Christianity, Judaism, Plato’s ideas, and Buddhism. They self-identify themselves as Unitarians.
Islamist extremists have labeled the Druze “heretics” for their unusual beliefs, but they seem to have been safe from harm until recently.
According to the Times of Israel, 20 Druze were murdered in Northern Syria by members of the Nusra Front (Syria’s al-Qaeda branch) last week. Likewise, the terrorist group has sent people to Druze villages to “inform them of the doctrinal pitfalls they have fallen into.”
The massacre has made the safe zone a growing priority for Israel.
An unnamed senior source talked to Walla News about the situation.
“There is no intention to absorb Druze refugees into Israel, but as a people that experienced the Holocaust, we have no intention of ignoring the possibility of a mass genocide of the Druze minority.”
Israel’s Druze minority has started protesting to get the government to act. Most Syrian Druze live in the southern province of Sweida, particularly in Jabal al-Druze, or Mount Druze, the heart of group’s former autonomous zone from when the French controlled Syria.
Atta Farhat, the Druze Zionist Council head, wrote to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “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.”
Nevertheless, like most political matters in the Middle East, the current situation is not so simple.
The Nusra Front has condemned the attacks on the Druze. They’ve tried to calm fears, explaining that the men responsible for the killings acted against the group’s leadership and would be prosecuted, according to i24News.
The al-Qaeda branch explained that despite the murders, the people in the Syrian village were still safe.
“This village and its people are still safe under our protection and in areas under our control. Everyone who was involved in this incident will be referred to an Islamic court and will be held accountable.”
The Jerusalem Post reported that Israel has maintained secret ties with al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, allowing the group to take over large swathes of Syria’s southern border and providing medical assistance to wounded coming over the border. In exchange, Syria’s southern minority groups, including the Druze, were protected.
The combined presence of Nusra and the Druze has prevented more hostile groups like Hezbollah from establishing themselves in Israel’s north borderlands.
The massacre has strained the informal relations, and the Druze may have new enemies shortly.
The Assad regime has stopped protecting the group, partially because it’s losing ground on several fronts and has to prioritize its dwindling forces. The other reason is the Druze refused a demand from the capital to send 27,000 young men to replace the fallen in Assad’s army.
With the government losing control, the Islamic State might come to take over the southern region from Nusra, potentially cutting all deals with the Israeli government.
In an increasingly unpredictable environment, Israel may feel forced to finally intervene in Syria, creating a tiny autonomous safe zone where the Druze can wait until the chaotic situation settles.
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