Activists push for refugees’ safe zone near Syria-Israel border

A safe zone should be set up for displaced Syrians camping on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, which borders with Israel, the leader of a Syrian-focused charity and a leading Syrian opposition figure said on Thursday.

Moti Kahana, an American-Israeli businessman and founder of the Amaliah charity, which aims to empower civil society and women in the Middle East, and Syrian politician Kamal al-Labwani said there is a growing encampment in the area where civilians fleeing the five-year Syrian conflict have been gathering.

Speaking at a press conference in Jerusalem, the two told reporters of their plans.

“We like to be a good neighbor, we would like to increase humanitarian supply, we do think a safe zone next to the Israeli border is the right thing to do, and we will help you to achieve that goal,” Kahana said.

Kahana and Labwani have been leaning on Israel, the United Nations and European Union to set up the safe zone.

“The government of Israel gives help through the borders, humanitarian help, and treats the injured people, but now we need more; we need to create inside Syria a safe zone, a safe zone for civilians to help them to have ability to rebuild their society,” Labwani said.

White tents being erected between the Syrian and the Israeli sides of the Golan Heights may signal quiet preparations to accommodate a potential southward surge of refugees. The two dozen tents can easily be observed from the communities adjacent to the border.

Dubi Hadar, a resident of Moshav Alonei Habashan, said, “This refugee camp emerged as a result of the Syrian civil war. Eventually, Syrians who had nowhere else to flee to arrived here. Lately, the camp became much bigger. This is the place where people can live their lives away from the war because here it is quiet.”

Hadar said local residents “trust the IDF. As far as we’re concerned, whatever the military permits is OK; the IDF is doing its job well.”

An Israeli official told Reuters that Israel was not prepared for any significant increase in numbers from the hundreds of civil war casualties it has brought in through the Golan for treatment in recent years.