Quietly, over the last year, hundreds of sick Syrian children and their chaperones have been whisked across enemy lines at dawn for treatment at clinics in Israel, slipping back home after dark. Truckloads of supplies have passed into Syrian villages through a gate in the sturdy security fence that Israel has constructed since Syria erupted into civil war, including stacks of flour, generators, half a million liters of fuel, construction materials, tons of shoes, baby formula, antibiotics and even a few vehicles and mules.
This week, the Israeli military revealed the scope of the humanitarian aid project, which it calls Operation Good Neighbor and which began in June 2016 along the Israeli-Syrian boundary on the Golan Heights. The aid project depends on an extraordinary level of cooperation between old foes on both sides of the decades-old armistice lines separating the Syrians and Israelis. Military officials say they coordinate directly with Syrian doctors and village leaders to gauge needs.
“The [humanitarian ] aid creates a positive awareness of Israel on the Syrian side,” said Col. Barak Hiram, the commanding officer of Israel’s 474 Golan Brigade, adding that it could lay the “first seeds” of some form of future agreement.
Most of the supplies are donated by Israeli and foreign nongovernmental organizations, while the Israeli government has footed the bill for medical treatment. According to the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees, a New York-based network of organizations involved in the aid effort, Israel has also become an efficient, if unlikely, staging area for Syrian aid groups operating abroad that, facilitated by the Israeli military, are now shipping goods into Syria through Israeli ports.
Georgette Bennett, who founded the Multifaith Alliance in 2013, is a Hungarian-born former refugee and the daughter of Holocaust survivors.
[New York Times]