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Netanyahu: Israel Keeping Close Tabs on Syrian Border

Israel will maintain close tabs on its border with Syria and only let people to cross in "exceptional circumstances," says PM Netanyahu.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 2/18/2013, 4:12 AM

Netanyahu visits Golan Heights
Netanyahu visits Golan Heights
Flash 90

Israel will maintain close tabs on its border with Syria and only let people to cross in "exceptional circumstances," Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday.

The comments were made a day after seven Syrians who were wounded in the ongoing Syrian civil war were let in to Israel and were taken to the Ziv Hospital in Tzfat to receive medical treatment.

"We will continue to watch over the border and prevent anyone from crossing it and entering Israel, except in a few isolated and exceptional circumstances -- each of which will be weighed on its own merit," Netanyahu told his outgoing cabinet during its weekly meeting.

One of the seven wounded Syrians was in critical condition while the other six were moderately wounded, a spokesman for the Ziv Hospital told AFP on Sunday, saying all of them had been operated on.

Neither the IDF nor the hospital would provide details on the nature of the injuries, or whether they were members of the Syrian military or the opposition forces.

Netanyahu said the tensions along Israel's frontier with Syria would be a key element of his talks with U.S. President Barack Obama when he makes his first visit to Israel as president next month.

Top Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad indicated on Sunday that the seven Syrians “asked for humanitarian aid and Israel extended its assistance.”

Syrian activists have confirmed clashes in the Quneitra region, situated on the ceasefire line between Israel and Syria, in the Golan Heights. Syrian opposition sources said rebels captured a military police position at Han Arnabeh, located northeast of Quneitra, not far from the Israeli border.

The ongoing civil war in Syria has spilled over several times into Israel from the Golan Heights. The incidents have included mortar shells landing in the religious Zionist town of Alonei Habashan, which is less than a kilometer from the border, as well as IDF vehicles being hit by bullets fired from Syrian territory into Israel during the fighting between the sides.

As a result of the spillover, the IDF changed the rules of engagement along the Syrian border.

Jewish Home MK Yoni Chetboun said on Sunday that Israel cannot, and must not, be the “shelter of last resort for the suffering masses of the Middle East.”

In a letter to the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, MK Chetboun wrote, “Humanitarian aid is important, but Israel is not and cannot be the shelter for all those suffering in this region.”

While Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon said that the incident was not a precedent, and that Israel had no plans to intervene in any way in the conflict in Syria, Chetboun wrote that when word gets out of the incident, Israel shouldn't be surprised if it is inundated with requests by tens of thousands of refugees for assistance. Based on Israel's experience at the southern border – with infiltration by African refugees finally under control after much effort – a policy must be developed for refugees on the northern border, whom he believes will try to enter Israel.