Israeli Doctors Quietly Treating Syria War Victims

Monday, 08 Jul 2013 02:35 AM

By Joel Himelfarb

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For the past four months, doctors in Israel have been quietly offering medical treatment to Syrian victims of their nation’s civil war, in which more than 100,000 have been killed since March 2011. Israeli doctors have reportedly treated about 100 Syrians.

Of those, 33 have received care at Ziv Hospital in Safed, which receives patients referred from a new Israeli Army medical facility at the Syrian border, according to hospital director Oscar Embon. The army declined to respond to a query on how many people have been treated at its facility.

"This is a very cruel war," Embon told the Christian Science Monitor. "It is, however, a source of satisfaction and pride that we can realize the values of our profession to cross borders, be humanistic, treat those in need, and help others."

While Israel is not directly involved in the fighting between President Bashar al-Assad's regime and opposition forces, it has conducted several airstrikes in Syria targeting weaponry bound for the Lebanese group Hezbollah, which is fighting alongside the Syrian Army.

Damascus accuses Israel of siding with the rebels. Israeli officials who do not want their humanitarian role being turned into a political issue by Assad are wary of expanding it.

An Israeli official emphasized that his country’s situation is different than that of Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon nations that have taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees each, the Monitor reported. Unlike those Muslim-majority nations, he noted, Syria has long had a formal state of war with Israel.

When Syrian patients first started coming to Ziv, they tended to be ''rebels who were involved in the war,'' Embon says. ''But now it’s simple citizens. There are shillings of innocent civilians and a share of them seek care in Israel.''

Among the recent arrivals at Ziv was a 15-year-old boy who had been severely wounded by shrapnel while working on a tractor. He was brought by an army ambulance with a blood-stained referral note in Arabic summarizing his treatment in Syria. The youngest Syrian patient the hospital's doctors have treated so far was a nine-year-old who had lost his eye to shrapnel.

Amram Hadary, head of the hospital's trauma unit, said that in many instances, the Syrian patients do not know exactly what caused their injuries: “They say there was an explosion but they don't know what it was.''

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