A mob of Druze protesters attacked an Israeli ambulance in the Golan Heights along the Syrian border Monday night, killing one of its passengers over suspicions that Israeli doctors were treating Islamist rebels from Syria.
Eyewitnesses and Israeli media described the attack as a "lynching."
Israeli medic Shosh Tzualah told Channel 2 News that the patients in the ambulance, already in serious condition, had been hit with rocks.
“They wanted to kill them … yes, they wanted to lynch them,” she said.
Israel Channel 2's correspondent on the scene tweeted photos of the damage:
הדרוזים ביצעו לינץ בפצועים הסורים. התמונות קשות. מצבם קשה. pic.twitter.com/98qIcDzYs4— Guy Varon (@guyvaron) June 22, 2015
A leader of Israel’s Druze minority told Israel’s Army Radio Tuesday morning that emotions were inflamed following the television interview of an alleged jihadist rebel who said he planned to return to Syria to kill members of the Druze minority there.
While Israeli doctors have treated scores of wounded Syrians who are driven over the border into Israel as a humanitarian gesture, the IDF denied that it has treated jihadist rebels.
Following the mob attack, Israeli police announced that one of the Syrians had been killed, one was in serious condition and two Israeli soldiers, including a military doctor, were lightly wounded.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a “serious incident.”
“We will not let anyone take the law into their own hands, and not allow anyone to interfere with Israeli soldiers carrying out their duties,” Netanyahu said, vowing to bring the “lawbreakers” to justice.
Netanyahu also called on leaders of Israel’s Druze minority to work to calm the fury.
IDF spokesman Motti Almoz denied the charge that Israel is treating members of Syria's Al Qaeda branch, the Nusra Front.
The IDF “has not provided aid to the Nusra Front over the past four years, since the civil war in Syria began,” Almoz said, according to the Times of Israel. “We help wounded Syrians who arrive at our border and give them medical treatment.”
But Israel’s i24 News noted that Israeli hospital staff do not try to confirm the identities of the Syrian patients they treat, totaling 1,600 in the past four years since the Syrian civil war began.
Druze residents of northern Israel erupted in celebration following the lynching, according to the Israeli news portal 0404 which posted video. It's unclear if the demonstrators knew yet that one of the ambulance passengers had been killed.
Syrian government media loyal to President Assad praised the attackers, calling them “our heroic countrymen.”
I24 quoted the Syrian official news agency SANA which reported that "two terrorists from Jabhat al-Nusra [Nusra Front] were killed after the heroes of the occupied Golan blocked and attacked a Zionist ambulance transporting (the wounded) to one of the Israeli enemy's hospitals for treatment."
Sheikh Moafaq Tarif, a leader of Israel’s Druze community said, "This is not our way, and we are hurting over the criminal act done by lawbreakers.”
The Druze – who subscribe to an offshoot of Shia Islam – are one of several religious minorities, including Christians, who have been protected by Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Given that the Islamic State group and the Nusra Front believe them to be apostates, the Druze fear for their safety.
At least 20 Druze Syrians were killed this month by the Nusra Front near the Turkish border, further raising concerns among Israeli Druze for the safety of their kinsmen over the border.