Israel is sending water and food to desperate Syrian civilians near the Israeli border who have been trapped by the civil war, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Tuesday, during a tour of the Golan Heights.
“We’ve transferred water and food – including baby food. The villages here are locked in, have no access to anywhere else,” Ya’alon said.“We’re supplying humanitarian help to residents over the border here, and are evacuating them to our hospitals. We don’t see the situation stabilizing in the near future,” Ya’alon said.
During his tour, Ya’alon was accompanied by Northern Command chief Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan and other senior officers, and received a security briefing.
“We’re seeing daily fighting by opposition elements against the Syrian army, with the opposition pushing the Syrian army eastwards and we’re monitoring developments in the rest of the Syrian territory where there is daily fighting.
The world is focusing on the disbandment of chemical weapons, but there are hundreds of casualties per week in this fighting,” the defense minister said.
He praised the IDF’s Northern Command and the Golan Division for its work to secure the border, saying that Israel won’t allow a violation of its sovereignty on the Golan Heights, and won’t accept attacks by various elements in Syria against it.
Addressing the situation in the Gaza Strip, Ya’alon said that Hamas is the sovereign ruler of the enclave, which he called “Hamastan.”
Hamas could have “decided to grow and export strawberries and not produce and export rockets and missiles. If it wasn’t for this situation, we would not prevent the entry of pipes used to manufacture missiles, and would not prevent the entry of concrete, recently used to dig and build attack tunnels.”
He added, “There is no siege. We’re the only party that cares about the residents of Gaza apparently, as Egypt blocked the border, and the PA isn’t interested – it has other considerations.”
Israel is the only party that supplies Gaza with most of its electricity and water needs, and allows in goods daily through the Kerem Hashalom crossing, with the exception of concrete and dual-use products that can be used to manufacture rockets and missiles, he said.
“The interesting thing is that the world turns to us, not to our neighbors or anyone else, but turns to us, and says we’re sovereign [over Gaza],” Ya’alon said.
He revealed that the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon turned to him in recent days with a request to allow concrete into Gaza for the construction of UN schools.
Ya’alon said he agreed to the request, on two conditions: “That the UN condemns the use of concrete by Hamas for attack tunnels,” and that a UN representative tells Israel how much concrete is needed, exactly, for the project while committing the organization to ensuring that the concrete does not reach Hamas for terrorist uses.
Asked to comment on strained relations with the US, Ya’alon said, “Relations between us are excellent, and are based on common values and interests… Among friends with common interests there can be divisions. On the Iranian issue, there is undoubtedly an argument between us and the American administration, and we have expressed our opinion accordingly.”
Nevertheless, he said, bilateral relations have not been harmed by the dispute over Iran, and open channels exist between the defense establishments and governments of the two countries.
“Unfortunately, the Iranians left Geneva with an easing of sanctions and an open nuclear-military option.
“We argued that an easing of sanctions will lead to a flood [of business with Iran] and to an opening of the dam, and that is what we’re seeing before us. For the Iranians, this can continue for a long period, and we find that regrettable,” Ya’alon said.
He noted that the Iranian regime activates terrorism “not only against Israel, but in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon through Hezbollah, Gaza through Islamic Jihad, and perhaps will return to supporting Hamas.”