Israel's military has vowed to protect Syrian refugees fleeing the war-torn country from Islamic State group militants prowling its border. Israeli army officials also pledged to provide humanitarian aid to help the refugees.
Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said Tuesday during a hearing before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Syria is disintegrating and the war is drawing dangerously close to Israel’s border. The promise to protect Syrian refugees came after Israel’s religious leaders this week called on the government to help Syria’s Druze minority after ISIS fighters massacred 20 Druze in the Idlib region last week. Israel has reportedly considered creating a “safe zone” on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights to help Druze refugees, the Times of Israel reported.
Israel has also kept a close eye on growing support for ISIS fighters in the Gaza Strip, which is estimated to be about 14 percent among local residents, Haaretz reported. Organizations affiliated with ISIS have also gained new followers in Sinai, and were working with militants in Gaza, Eisenkot said.
During Syria's four-year civil war, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled to neighboring Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. At the same time, ISIS has expanded its reach beyond Syria and into Iraq and other countries in the past year.
Amnesty International Monday criticized the global response to the Syrian refugee crisis and urged neighboring countries to lift "deeply troubling" measures designed to keep them from crossing into safer regions, Reuters reported. In a report titled "Global Refugee Crisis: A conspiracy of Neglect," Amnesty said Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey were closing their borders to the refugees.
"All the main host countries have imposed severe restrictions on the entry of people fleeing the conflict -- in many cases these restrictions have all but ended the ability of desperate Syrians to escape the ongoing crisis," Salil Shetty, Amnesty International's secretary-general, told a press conference.