After several years of being a “good neighbor” the Israeli army has announced that it is ending its humanitarian mission of supplying food and other goods to Syria during its civil war.
“After two years of complex, wide ranging and extensive humanitarian aid, which has helped thousands of Syrian civilians, the ‘Good Neighbor’ Command has ended its activities,” the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in a statement. “The large and long-running humanitarian effort has come to an end with the return of the Syrian regime to southern Syria.”
The decision to shutter the Good Neighbor mission comes as Syrian President Bashar Assad’s troops regain control in certain regions. Israel and Syria consider each other enemy states and do not have diplomatic relations.
But since the outbreak of civil war the IDF has also allowed Syrians seeking medical attention into Israel either treating them at the border or transporting them to one of the hospitals in the north. Israel also began facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid across the border during the seven-year civil war.
“The command provided humanitarian and medical assistance to the citizens of Syria out of the importance of human life and as a gesture of good will and is part of the extensive humanitarian aid that was provided by the IDF over the past five years,” the IDF statement said.
“Operation Good Neighbor” was established in 2016. According to the IDF, since 2013 more than 4,900 Syrians were brought into Israeli hospitals for medical treatment, including 1,300 children plus another 7,000 treated at the border. According to an IDF infographic, Israel transported 1,700 tons of food, 1.1 million liters of fuel, 26,000 cases of medical equipment and medication, 20 generators, 40 vehicles, 630 tents, 350 tons of clothing, 8,200 packages of diapers and 49,000 cases of baby food.
The IDF also released a number of testimonials from Syrians who were treated by Israelis.
“I wish you the best and want to thank you greatly for the help and for standing beside us. God willing, this thing will not be forgotten and we will tell our sons what you did,” one man said.
Several believing organizations teamed up with the IDF to transport much needed humanitarian aid across the border including the Joseph Project, Evangelical Christian Ministries of Frontier Alliance International and Friend Ships, Camp Ichay.
As KNI reported, the Joseph Project donated a container of valuable medical supplies and equipment during a medical emergency in Aleppo. The Joseph Project – the largest importer of humanitarian aid in Israel – joined with Israeli Flying Aid to reallocate a container to Israel’s neighbors during the crisis.
“We made a decision during the catastrophe in Aleppo to divert the shipment because this was an emergency,” Jim Schutz, director of The Joseph Project, told KNI. “When you’re hearing of hospitals getting bombed and you receive the kind of aid that can really make a difference and save innocent lives, you want to do whatever you can.”
One Syrian who was shot in the face during a battle in his country sought help in Israel when a Syrian doctor told him there was nothing he could do. Months and several plastic surgeries later, Hani, 28, told reporters he was thankful to his Israeli doctors and hosts.
“All of the Arab countries closed the border with Israel and wouldn’t let us in,” he said. “The Israelis are the only ones who didn’t close the border. I am so grateful to all of the doctors who helped me.”
From a military and political perspective, Israel has largely remained on the sidelines during the civil war, but insists that it will work to prevent Hezbollah or Iran to maintain a military presence on the border with Israel. However, Israeli civilians and the military have taken a progressive role in providing humanitarian relief to victims of the civil war.
“The extensive aid activities led by the IDF in the Syrian Golan Heights is further expression of the values which guide its conduct, including supporting civilians in need of assistance, even beyond the borders of Israel,” the statement said.