JERUSALEM – Syrian President Bashar Assad yesterday issued a decree urging his citizens to move to the Golan Heights, claiming the International Committee of the Red Cross would help flood the Golan with Syrians.
Assad said the Golan Heights would soon be returned to Syria.
The decree follows reports, first detailed by WND, and later confirmed by Israel’s military intelligence chief, Syria is seeking to create a Hezbollah-like guerrilla organization to launch attacks against the Jewish state in hopes of prompting an Israeli retreat from the Golan.
The Golan Heights is mountainous territory captured by the Jewish state after Syria used the terrain to attack Israel in 1967 and again in 1973. The Heights looks down on major Israeli and Syrian population centers. It borders Israel, Syria and Lebanon and is claimed by Damascus.
Military officials say returning the Golan Heights to Syria would grant Damascus the ability to mount an effective ground invasion of the Jewish state.
Assad’s decree urges Syrian officials, humanitarian workers, public service providers and their families to move to the Golan with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross, or ICRC. His signed statement said Syrians who wish to move to the Golan will be granted approval by “all the relevant authorities.”
The decree affirmed the “right of the Syrian people’s resistance” aimed at ensuring the return of the Golan Heights.
Israel officially annexed the Golan in 1981 and controls the territory. A United Nations contingent monitors border zones. The ICRC has authority to operate in the area purportedly to facilitate civilian crossings into and out of Syria in humanitarian cases. Israel must approve all cases of Syrian residents moving to the Golan.
The Red Cross can petition for entry for Syrian aid workers assisting its programs. The organization reportedly is building a new medical facility in the Golan.
The Heights has a population of about 35,000 – approximately 18,000 Jewish residents and 17,000 Arabs, mostly Druze. The Arab residents retain their Syrian citizenship but under Israeli law can also sue for Israeli citizenship.
Dorothia Krimitsas, a spokeswoman for the ICRC, told WND her organization is “neutral” and only seeks to help Syrians in “humanitarian cases.”
“We are aware of Assad’s decree (for Syrians to move to the Golan via the Red Cross) but we are a nonpolitical organization. We help facilitate movement between Syria and the Golan in humanitarian cases, like weddings and important unions,” said Krimitsas, speaking from Geneva.
Red Cross bias?
But officials here have long accused the ICRC of anti-Israel bias. The organization for nearly 60 years refused membership to Israel purportedly because the Jewish state wanted to use its own emblem – a star of David – instead of the traditional cross. Israel finally was admitted this past June after intensive lobbying efforts by the American Red Cross.
The ICRC treated Hezbollah militants on the battlefield during confrontations with Israel that ended last month.
Some Israeli military officials accused Red Cross ambulances of helping transport some Hezbollah fighters.
“The moment a Hezbollah fighter is injured, he is considered a non-combatant, so we must take care of him,” said ICRC spokeswoman Carla Haddad.
During a major Israeli anti-terror raid in the northern Samaria city of Jenin in 2002, the ICRC along with the Palestinian Authority and the U.N. accused the Jewish state of attacking civilians and denying medical treatment for injured Palestinians for six days. The charges later were disproved.
The Palestinian Authority claimed 500 civilians were “massacred” in the Jenin battle but it was later determined 42 people, mostly combatants, were killed. The Israeli military lost 23 soldiers in the operation.
Syria to form its own Hezbollah
Assad’s decree for Syrians to move to the Golan follows a recent WND report that top members of Assad’s Baath Party were advised in a private briefing to purchase real estate in the Golan Heights because, they were told, the strategic territory will “very soon” be returned to Syria.
Previously, WND broke the story Syria is in the process of forming what a Baath Party official called the Front for the Liberation of the Golan Heights, a new “resistance” group that models itself after Hezbollah.
The official told WND Syria learned from Hezbollah’s military campaign against Israel that “fighting” is more effective than peace negotiations with regard to gaining territory.
Hezbollah claims its goal is to liberate the Shebaa Farms, a small, 125-square-mile bloc situated between Syria, Lebanon and Israel. The cease-fire resolution accepted by Israel to end its military campaign in Lebanon calls for negotiations leading to Israel’s relinquishing of the Shebaa Farms.
The Baath official told WND the Front for the Liberation of the Golan Heights was formed in June and that the group currently consists of Syrian volunteers, many from the Syrian border with Turkey and from Palestinian refugee camps near Damascus. He said Syria held registration for volunteers to join the Front in June.
One week after the WND story, state-run Al-Alam Iranian television featured an interview with a man who identified himself as the leader of the new Front for the Liberation of the Golan Heights.
The man, whose features were blocked out, said his new group consists of “hundreds” of fighters who are training for guerrilla-like raids against Israeli positions in and near the Golan. He claimed the Front has opened several training camps inside Syria.
Sept.12, Amos Yadlin, chief of military intelligence for the Israeli Defense Forces, announced the Jewish state has indications Syria is in the initial stages of forming a Hezbollah copycat group to attack Israeli positions in the Golan.