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July 16, 2018 10:28 am

Syrians Cross Frontier for Medical Appointments in Israel

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IDF soldiers providing emergency medical care to young Syrians injured in attacks by the Assad regime on rebel-held towns near Deraa. Photo: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.

Keeping their doctor’s appointments in Israel, Syrian children and their mothers step across a tense Golan Heights border in the dead of night under the watchful gaze of Israeli soldiers.

The patients, Israeli medical officials said, were not the walking wounded of the seven-year-old Syrian civil war but children with chronic health problems coming across the frontier for a day’s treatment in a hospital in northern Israel.

Israel says it has treated between 4,000 and 4,500 war casualties from Syria since a humanitarian aid programme began some five years ago.

Watched by Israeli soldiers with night-vision equipment, one woman — carrying one child and holding the hand of another — steps through a gate built into Israel’s security fence in the occupied Golan Heights.

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After a brief security check, she joins others at the roadside to wait for a bus that would take them to Ziv Hospital in the northern town of Safed, where a clown entertained the children.

For Israel, the medical aid program can help win hearts and minds in border areas where the number of refugees has increased in recent weeks as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces advance in an offensive to recover southwest Syria.

Israel, which captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War, has largely stayed out of the current conflict in Syria.

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