Hospital care (illustrative)
Hospital care (illustrative) Israel news photo: Flash 90

Six of seven wounded Syrians returned to their homes across Israel's northern border after healing their injuries at Ziv Hospital in Tzfat.

They were discharged early Wednesday morning and returned to Syria quietly, without incident, crossing the border at a point not disclosed to media “for their own safety,” according to the IDF. Syria and Israel are technically still at war, and there are also jihadists in the opposition forces fighting President Bashar al-Assad as well. Either side could have targeted the group for having gone to Israel -- and officials have not said which side the patients were fighting with.

The seventh casualty has remained in Israel for continued medical care, since that victim had arrived in critical condition with gunshot wounds to the abdomen. All were visited by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) last week. All seven patients suffered gunshot and/or shrapnel wounds, hospital authorities said. They were provided with Arabic translators and were in separate rooms, under guard, during their stay in Israel. 

“When patients arrive at our emergency room, we care for them,” a spokesperson for Ziv Hospital said simply, when explaining the presence of Syrian nationals in an Israeli medical center. 

The case does not mark a change in policy, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon stressed in an interview Saturday with Israel’s Channel 2 television, but rather an exception to the rule. “This was a unique event,” Ya’alon said, and any others that might follow would “likewise be considered each on its own merits, on an individual basis.”

The group was rushed to the medical center 10 days ago after first receiving life-saving treatment at the border from an IDF medic, who treated them once they were brought across the border by the IDF. All had been wounded in clashes taking place near the Syrian border with Israel in the Golan Heights, in the savage civil war between opposition forces and troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. 

“They asked for humanitarian aid and Israel extended its assistance,” top Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad explained at the time.