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TIP CEO: As Assad Prepares His Final Assault, Israel Has Done Its Best to Protect Syrians

Israel has played a central role in alleviating the suffering of Syria’s civilian population, often at great risk to their own, Joshua S. Block., CEO & President of The Israel Project, wrote in an op-ed published in the Washington Examiner on Wednesday. His comments come at a time when the Syrian regime and Russia are preparing the final assault on the last remaining rebel-stronghold in Idlib.

“With the world wavering and the chemical attacks continuing, Israel has found itself more and more drawn into the chaos,” Block said. “What set out as a strict survival policy in Syria, to contain the influence of Iran and Hezbollah, has over the years evolved into a multifaceted strategy to meet Israel’s security needs and ease the unimaginable suffering of Syria’s civilians.”

Israel’s main strategic goal in Syria is to contain the influence of Iran and its proxy Hezbollah, as well as to prevent an Iranian land bridge — a continuous, unimpeded route over land from Tehran to the Mediterranean Sea.

The Israeli army said last week that it hit more than 200 Iranian military targets in Syria and fired over 800 missiles and mortar shells over the past year and a half. Failure to win over Russia to effectively curb Iran’s influence in Syria, “has left Israel to enforce its own red lines,” Block observed.

He noted, however, that besides enforcing its security interests, the Jewish State also “forged genuine partnerships with aid organizations on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights and launched an unprecedented campaign to ease the suffering of Syrian civilians — despite the fact that Israel and Syria remain officially at war.”

Block cited a Syrian patient, who said from his Israeli hospital bed: “Israel is not the enemy. Bashar is the enemy.” Over 5,000 wounded Syrians have been treated by the Jewish State since 2013 and thousands more received aid through “Operation Good Neighbor.” Block also referenced the daring rescue mission the IDF undertook in July, when they evacuated members of the White Helmets, and their families, from southwestern Syria into Jordan.

Israel’s efforts to help Syria’s civilian population “stands in stark contrast to the position taken by the Palestinian leadership,” Block noted. “Palestinian political factions, such as Fatah and the PLO, have either sided with the Assad regime or remained silent about this.” The Assad regime in April took control of the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk south of Damascus. Of the 20,000 Palestinians who lived there only 100-200 remain. “The others fled, or were bombed, shot, and starved to death,” Block said.

He concluded: “As the world prepares for the worst in Idlib — including another likely chemical weapons attack — the sight of innocents being gassed to death is felt by many Israelis, and the Jewish people,” adding “My hope is that Syrians will at least know and remember who stood with them in their struggle, and those who did not.”

[Photo: TIME / YouTube ]