JERUSALEM — Israeli soldiers provided medical treatment to wounded Syrians who approached the countries' border and then transported them to a hospital in Israel for further treatment, the military said Saturday, in the first instance of Syrians finding shelter from their country's civil war in the Jewish state.
A military spokeswoman said soldiers gave the wounded Syrians initial medical treatment near the security fence along the frontier in the Golan Heights and then evacuated them to an Israeli hospital. She would not elaborate further and spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity in line with protocol.
The seven wounded Syrians are receiving medical treatment at Ziv hospital in the northern city of Safed. A hospital spokeswoman said they sustained serious injuries to internal organs and limbs. She said one was in critical condition and the rest were in serious condition.
Israel and Syria have fought several wars and although the two nations have been enemies, Israel is concerned that if the Assad regime is toppled, Syria could fall into the hands of Islamic extremists. Israel also worries that anti-Israel groups such as Hezbollah could gain access to President Bashar Assad's stockpile of chemical weapons. There also are concerns that al-Qaida-linked groups battling Assad could turn their focus toward Israel.
"It was on a humanitarian basis," Israeli Vice Premier Moshe Yaalon told Channel 2 TV. "Refugees approached the border, received medical treatment, and we decided to bring them in for treatment in our territory in light of their condition," he said. Yaalon stressed that there is no change in Israeli policy and that a large influx of Syrians will not be allowed.
It was unclear whether the Syrians are rebels fighting to topple Assad, forces loyal to him or civilians caught in the crossfire.
Syrian activists reported fighting in the Quneitra region on Saturday, which is on the cease-fire line between Syria and Israel in the Golan Heights.