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Monday, June 25, 2012

Israelis sneaking into Jordan to provide aid to Syrian refugees

From the IL4Syrians NGO website:
The organization is comprised of a group of non-religious, Zionist, Israeli citizens who love their homeland and believe in Jewish tradition and culture that values a compassionate, open-minded respect for the sanctity of human life and dignity.

Along with this commitment to human life, the organization is also devoted to faithfully defending Israel’s borders and citizens in the face of threat.

Today, with such economic power and defense capabilities, Israel feels a moral and ethical duty to become “the voice of the voiceless” and in this particular case, even if it is the voice of the vulnerable populations among some of our toughest and cruelest enemies.

The organization is comprised of men and women who believe they are blessed to be born in a democratic country that enables its citizens to travel to challenging, dangerous places.

Because the neighboring countries forbid humanitarian aid, out of fear of political military repercussions, assistance is in the form of cash only, in order to stay under the radar and out of danger. The NGO apologizes for the lack of transparency in this particular case, but this is a direct result of the fear that is dominating in the region right now due to Assad’s reign of terror.

ABOUT THE REFUGEES

During these missions, the NGO has encountered mostly women and children whose husbands and fathers stayed behind in order to keep the struggle alive. The refugees fall into three main categories:

1. Syrians traveling legally. These refugees carry legal documents and valid passports, and usually belong to the higher socio-economic classes. They cross the border legally and go through a short military investigation and are then released and are then able to rent homes and build lives in the host country.

2. Syrians traveling illegally. These refugees, usually from lower socio-economic status, illegally cross the borders, do not go through military investigations and are not processed or listed. They try desperately to blend and disappear into the local villages. They are not eligible for any aid because they do not officially reside anywhere.

3. The detained. This category includes healthy men, women and children who have been caught by local armies in neighboring countries and are held in army bases for an uncertain time. They are subject to rigorous investigation and their numbers are unknown. Rumors among the other refugees state that some are even forced returned to Syria turned over to Assad. It goes without saying that their fate is then known.

The NGO has been sending ongoing missions to help the refugees in neighboring countries, despite facing some significant challenges. One of the most difficult challenges is the resistance of the host countries, those absorbing large numbers of refugees. They all fear Assad’s wrath – political, diplomatic, economic and even military retaliation – and therefore are reluctant to publicly admit that they are absorbing Syrian escapees, and do not allow humanitarian aid to be brought in and distributed. Not only must volunteers hide from the host country, they also have to be aware of the presence of Iranian and Syrian intelligence personnel who have infiltrated and work under cover, disguising themselves as refugees. They bring information back to the Syrian government, including numbers and names, and also work actively to frighten and hurt the refugees. There have even been reports of infiltrators poisoning the water sources of the refugees.

As a result, the Israeli NGO works with cash only: in order to buy the humanitarian aid locally, to stay under the radar, and protect the lives of volunteers and local contacts.
A news report about IL4Syrians working in Jordan was shown on Israeli TV, and it is causing a stir in the Arab world. Al Watan Voice reports on their activities, says that the video shows that they were in Jordan, and then notes

Jordanian activists denounced these acts done by the Israeli delegation, and demanded the government investigate this case, and tighten controls on the entry of Israelis to Jordan for tourism or other reasons, because of the violation of the sovereignty of Jordan, normalization with Israel and the gradual promotion of an alternative homeland [for Palestinians.] They also demanded from relevant official bodies a clarifying response to what the Israeli delegation did.

(h/t Yoel)