Following a brutal attack on a Druze village in Syria last week, members of the Druze community living in Israel protested to demand Israel act to protect their brethren. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has turned to the US to ask for increased aid for the at-risk community.
On Wednesday, members of the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front attacked the Syrian Druze community of Qalb Lawzah in the Idlib region, killing 20 people. The attack is the worst violence the Druze have faced in the four-year civil war. Although members of the community are split between supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad and the rebel forces opposing him, they have largely stayed out of the fighting.
Now, however, they face the Islamic State (ISIS) in the east and al-Nusra in the west, The Times of Israel reported. Although al-Nusra claimed those responsible for Wednesday’s attack were acting against orders and would be punished, Israel’s Druze community is concerned for the welfare of their Syrian family members.
“I have family and friends who I’m very worried about and I try to help them in any way I can,” one member of the Israeli Druze community from Mas’ada village in the Golan Heights told Ynet. “I hope that the State of Israel will help them and let them come to Mas’ada. We are all ready to take them into our homes.”
Amid cries of “Stop the massacres!” and “We want the Druze among us,” members of the community collected money, clothes and supplies for the embattled Druze in Syria.
The Druze Zionist Council sent a letter to Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, urging them to act.
“Non-involvement in Syria will result in a Druze holocaust under our very noses, and who like Israel knows what a holocaust and genocide is,” wrote council head Atta Farhat, according to Israel’s Channel 10.
“As a major in the IDF on behalf of the Druze community, I was sent and would be sent on any mission to rescue our Jewish brothers anywhere in the world, to safeguard or extract them,” he wrote. “I salute this and fulfill this order for the sake of humanity, the state, and our IDF. To the same degree, and in order to prevent a Druze holocaust in Syria, I would expect that this is how my country would act — if only for the simple reason of averting genocide.”
As early as last week, Netanyahu turned to Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, asking the US to increase aid to the Syrian Druze community. Netanyahu ruled out direct involvement in Jabal al-Druze, deep in Syrian territory, but left open the possibility of sending other aid.
The political leader of Lebanon’s Druze community, however, insisted Friday that Syria’s Druze community needed neither Israel’s help, nor Assad. “We do not need neither Assad nor Israel,” he said during a press conference in Beirut, according to Haaretz. “Both sides are talking in a sectarian tone, which aims to perpetuate sectarianism and divide the country.” He defined Wednesday’s attack as an isolated incident.
The Druze are an ethnoreligious group extremely loyal to the countries in which they live. Some 140,000 Druze live in Israel, where they serve in the IDF. Another 500,000 live in Syria.