Tel Aviv (MEE) – The Israeli military said on Friday it was ready to protect the Druze village of Hader on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights after a car bomb killed nine people in a Druze town.
The statement was an unusually explicit Israeli pledge to intervene in the war in Syria, where Israeli officials are voicing deeper alarm at the role of Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah, which are fighting alongside the Syrian government.
Syrian state media said Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, formerly the Nusra Front, was responsible for the bomb which killed nine people and injured 23 in southwestern Quneitra.
Rockets and gunfire followed the bomb, the report said, adding the number of casualties was expected to rise.
Syrian rebel groups launched an attack on Syrian government-held areas in Quneitra on Friday, with the aim of connecting two insurgent-held areas. The attack included the car bomb in Hader.
Israeli officials said they were looking at the possibility of assisting Hader, whose residents have Druze kinsman lobbying on their behalf in Israel.
“The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) is prepared and ready to assist the residents of the village and prevent damage to or the capture of the village Hader out of commitment to the Druze population,” the military said in a statement.
The spokesperson also dismissed claims that Israeli authorities were giving assistance to militant groups fighting in the region.
The Quneitra area of Syria, where Hader village is located, is particularly sensitive to Israel because it is adjacent to the Golan Heights area that it captured from Syria in 1967.
Hundreds of Druze residents of Israel gathered at the border in support of their relatives on the Syrian side, according to Israel’s Channel 2 News.
There are an estimated 20,000 Druze living under the Israeli-occupied portion of the Golan Heights which was captured from Syria in the 1967 Six Day war and was de facto annexed by Israel in the early 80s.
Meanwhile, speaking from London, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel is prepared to use force if necessary to prevent Iran gaining a foothold in Syria.
The Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights is deemed a violation of international law by the vast majority of the international community while the United Nations mans a buffer that runs along the Syrian border.
“They want to leave their army, their airbases and fighter aircraft within seconds of Israel and we are not going to let that happen. We do not say that lightly. We mean what we say and we back it with action,” he told an audience at Chatham House.
The Israel police said as part of the general police preparation at the Golan Heights, forces were deployed and stationed at major intersections in the north.
“The deployment of the forces is intended to protect the Israeli residents in the north,” a police statement said.
This post originally ran on Middle East Eye.
Also published on Medium.