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Druze Join Forces - Complicating Israel's Military Position Vis-à-Vis Southern Syria

By DEBKAfile

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu early Tuesday denounced as "extremely grave" Druze mob attacks Monday on two IDF ambulances transporting injured Syrian rebel fighters to hospital. He warned that no one would be allowed "to take the law into his own hands or interfere with the IDF's duties." The perpetrators would be brought to justice, he said, and called on Druze leaders to act expeditiously to calm tempers. One of the injured Syrians died after the mob attack on the Golan; the second is in critical condition.

Even if Druze tempers are temporarily calmed over the fate of their Syrian brethren, the fallout from the Syrian civil war has already spilled over into Israel from an unexpected quarter. For nearly five years, Israel carefully kept its hands off the conflict raging on its northern border, restricting itself to responding ad hoc to dangers and building a quiet aid mechanism for selected Syrian rebels. But in recent months, Israel has re-channeled its military intervention into areas close to its border. The way this involvement is disavowed by Israeli officials is seriously detrimental to the government's military credibility.

When IDF spokesman Brig. Motti Almoz reiterated past statements that the military does not identify or assort by organization the injured Syrian rebels reaching the Israeli Golan border for treatment, he found that the Druze serving in Israel's armed forces and those living in Golan villages knew better.

Israeli Druze and Golan villagers - many loyal to Bashar Assad - were so incensed by this and past evasions that they came together for violent action – hence the attacks Monday, June 22, on two IDF ambulances ferrying injured Syrian rebel fighters to hospital.

After the first ambulance was attacked, the second should have been much better secured. It turned out that the military police escorting it were not up to fighting a raging Druze lynch mob outside Majdal Shams on the Golan. The Syrians were badly beaten up and one died later.

Israeli and Golan Druze have found a common cause, in itself a destabilizing factor, in the conviction that Israel is aiding the Syrian Al Qaeda arm, the Nusra Front, although some of the information from South Syria is disinformation slanted by hostile elements for stirring up trouble for Israel.

The thousand-year old secretive sect is treated as heretic by jihadis, including the Nusra Front. When a rebel alliance neared Jabal Druze in Syria, Nusra leaders promised not to harm the Druze provided that they "retreat from their religious mistakes." They then forced several hundred Druze to convert to Sunni Islam and desecrated their shrines.

Nusra Front is therefore a red flag for the Druze bull. This is just one more complicating factor in considering the ill-defined, fractious rebel alliance fighting in South Syria across from the Israeli Golan. Israeli protestations that it doesn't support Al Qaeda-linked rebels may hold true one day, while the next day, that same group may break up and join a jihadi faction. Some of them are constantly on the move in and out of Al Qaeda.

Saudi Arabia ran up against this phenomenon in recent weeks when it bought and armed 3,000 Nusra Front fighters on condition that they leave their group and join up under an umbrella anti-Assad rebel front called the Southern Front, or the Southern Army of Conquest.

The Saudi step relieved Israel of charges of supporting jihadi movements. But it was no means let off the hook as far as the Druze were concerned, because of the notoriously volatile nature of the rebel movement.

Most of Nusra's commanders did indeed repudiate their allegiance to Al Qaeda to win Saudi backing, but they soon switched back after Nusra in the north spearheaded major rebel victories. Clearly, victorious groups hold a fatal attraction for the hundreds of hazy rebel factions

The Druze demand for Israel to abandon the Nusra Front is tantamount to its repudiating the Syrian rebel cause at large. For the IDF this is a non-option: Ditching its under-the-radar links with certain Syrian rebel groups is the recipe for ending the relative calm on its Golan border with Syria. And withdrawing from its cooperation with the US-Saudi-Jordanian backed rebel force would endanger their effort to capture southern Syria, in the same way as comparable forces attained control of most of the north.

At the same time, the Israeli government must persuade its up-in-arms Druze citizens that IDF actions in South Syria will not bring harm to their Syrian brethren. This is an uphill task that may not prevent further Druze violence.

IDF Destroys Rocket Launcher Used to Attack Israel


IDF aircraft struck a rocket launcher in northern Gaza shortly after midnight on Tuesday, the IDF Spokesman said. The launcher that was attacked is the same one which was used in the rocket attack on the Hof Ashkelon region earlier on Tuesday evening. The IDF statement said that Israel considers the Hamas terrorist group responsible for any rocket attacks from Gaza.

The "Color Red" siren was sounded after 10 p.m. on Tuesday night in the Hof Ashkelon regional council area, a region that frequently has been a target of Hamas rockets from Gaza. The IDF confirmed that a rocket launch from Gaza was identified. Reports indicate that a succession of explosions was heard. Just before 10:30 p.m. a rocket was found in the Hof Ashkelon region, having fallen in an open area and caused no damage.

Responding to the rocket attack, Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman said that Israel cannot put up with "trickling" of rocket fire. "Those who are willing to absorb trickling - will eventually receive torrential rain. We must not accept this situation," warned Liberman. "A government that is ready to accept the situation, less than a year after the military operation in which we paid a high price in the lives of soldiers and the disruption of life in the entire country for two months, has no right to exist. This situation is intolerable, unacceptable and we must put an end to it," he added.

Family Says Woman Feared to Have Joined ISIS was Coerced


The family of a woman said to have fled to Syria with her family to join the Islamic State terror group has been in mourning since the news broke – and are adamant that she was taken against her will. Relatives said on Tuesday that the woman was forced by her husband to join ISIS. "People saw him forcibly dragging her and threatening her children," they said.

Several days ago the husband sent the family a message in which he wrote, "I have no place in Israel. The only place for us is the Islamic State." Relatives travelled to Turkey to search for the family and convince them to return, but failed to reach them.

"Every day is a day of mourning," said the woman's father. "We lost an entire family, my daughter and three grandchildren were everything to me. We are against the Islamic State organization. They are murderers. We are a secular family that is accepting of everyone. We are in deep pain. This has destroyed our family. I hope my daughter and her children return to the embrace of our family."

The woman's uncle said his niece had traveled with her husband and three children to Romania for her brother's graduation ceremony. "After the party, we received information that she and her husband had gone to Turkey with their children and then infiltrated into Syria," he said.

"It's very likely that her husband influenced her by force. He threatened his wife and pressured her to join him. We are convinced that he abducted her and the children and dragged them to the most dangerous place in the world. She never in her life had such thoughts. To the contrary, in fact."

The uncle said that the family was unaware that the husband was such an extremist. "They are normative, educated people who grew up in good houses and lacked nothing. I knew the husband was a religious man. But we didn't think he belonged to ISIS or any other organization. He is a successful businessman who has come far in life."

The uncle further said that his niece's husband had sold off all the furniture in the couple's home gradually, without people noticing. "All of this proves that he planned everything," he said. "If he is really a radical person who belongs to a murderous and fascist organization, I will not speak to him and will not forgive him. I am ashamed even to speak about him."

He added that "ISIS is a non-Muslim organization. They just want to slander Islam. We live in one country – Jews, Arabs, Druze, Circassians, we are all more than brothers. Unfortunately, the husband came to ruin our lives. No one will accept him."

The uncle strongly emphasized that his niece had no desire whatsoever to join ISIS. "I hope she returns with her children," he said. "We are all living in fear and cannot manage to deal with the current situation. We are suffering and miserable, and waiting to hear that they are going to return to Israel and live normal lives."

Queen Elizabeth to Meet Survivors at Nazi Death Camp

By Reuters & AFP

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II arrived in Germany Tuesday for a much anticipated state visit that also includes a trip to a former Nazi death camp liberated by British forces 70 years ago.

The 89-year-old queen and her husband Prince Philip, 94, touched down in her private plane for the three-day multi-stop visit, at a time when Britain is seeking support from the eurozone's top economy for its EU reform wish list.

The royal couple's packed agenda will include a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel - sometimes dubbed "the Queen of Europe" - at her offices Wednesday after traveling by boat along Berlin's Spree river.

They travel north Friday to the site of the Nazis' Bergen-Belsen camp where teenage Jewish diarist Anne Frank died of typhus shortly before it was freed by British troops in April 1945. The low-key visit will see the couple meet Holocaust survivors and liberators of the camp where 20,000 prisoners of war died and tens of thousands more were deported from 1941.

The queen's state visit is her fifth in just over 50 years - the last was in 2004 - and has sent newspaper columnists into overdrive. Dailies and news outlets have regaled Germans with royal etiquette dos and don'ts should they meet the British monarch, down to tips for pronouncing "Ma'am."

A rolling news channel began coverage with people posing next to images of the pastel-clad queen - unsuspecting Germans are reminded however that selfies with the British monarch are strictly off limits. Even the content of her trademark handbag has been cause for speculation.

Others have played up the visit's timing as Britain gears up for a referendum on EU membership, with the mass daily Bild dubbing the queen's visit "the secret weapon of British diplomacy to shake up the Franco-German love-in."

President Joachim Gauck, a former dissident Lutheran pastor in ex-East Germany, will officially welcome the royal couple Wednesday with military honors at his Bellevue Palace.

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