The Israeli Defense Forces rescued and treated over 2,000 victims of the Syrian civil war since 2013, carrying out secret operations to retrieve wounded civilians and militants who are left by the Jewish state’s border nearly every night, Jake Wallis Simons reported in the Daily Mail on Tuesday.
Simons, who embedded with IDF troops, recounted how one critically injured Syrian man was recovered, treated, and transferred to an Israeli hospital to receive further medical attention. A video of the incident is embedded below.
Under cover of darkness, an Israeli armoured car advances down the potholed road that leads to Syria. As it crests a small hill, the driver picks up the radio handset and tells his commanding officer that the border is in sight.
He kills the engine. Ten heavily-armed commandos jump out and take cover, watching for signs of ambush. Then five of them move up to the 12ft chainlink fence that marks the limit of Israeli-held territory.
On the other side, on the very edge of Syria, lies an unconscious man wrapped like a doll in a blood-drenched duvet. The commandos unlock the fence, open a section of it and drag him onto Israeli soil. The casualty – who doesn’t look older than 20 – is losing blood fast. He has been shot in the intestines and the liver, and has a deep laceration in his left ankle. After putting him on an emergency drip, the commandos stretcher him back to the armoured car and head back to Israel.
But this wounded man is not an Israeli soldier, or even an Israeli citizen. He is an Islamic militant. And his rescue forms part of an extraordinary humanitarian mission that is fraught with danger and has provoked deep controversy on all sides.
While it isn’t clear how Israel is notified that casualties have been left by its border, once the IDF receives word, intelligence units must confirm whether it is safe to retrieve the wounded before the commandos begin their operation. According to Simons, these rescue efforts have cost Israel about 50 million shekels, or $13 million.
Middle East analyst Kyle Orton criticized aspects Simons’ report, namely his assertion that most of those who Israel treats are Islamists. “[T]hose forces are weak in the areas Israel provides treatment,” Orton explained. “The rebels in this zone are part of al-Jabhat al-Janubiya (The Southern Front), an alliance of Free Syrian Army (FSA)-branded nationalist rebels that receive support from the Jordan-based, U.S.-supported Military Operations Centre (MOC).”
Orton also noted that none of the injured men that Simons interviewed in one of the videos expressed any hatred towards Israel. That video is embedded below.
In May, Israeli journalist Ron Ben-Yishai observed a similar rescue effort by the Syrian border. Ben-Yishai added a personal note to his report, saying that he admired the “level-headedness and professionalism” the soldiers displayed as they helped the wounded. At the time, Israel was reported to have treated 1,600 Syrians. That means that, in a little over half a year, Israel treated 400 Syrians, an average of more than two a day.
While the majority of injured Syrians the IDF receives are young men who were likely wounded during combat, the forces also treat civilians who come their way. Pregnant women sometimes travel to the border in order to deliver their babies in Israel. Two years ago, Israeli doctors treated a young Syrian girl whose leg was shattered with a cutting-edge procedure that allowed her to walk again.
[Photo: Daily Mail ]