Israel arrests Golan Druze over Syria attack rally

Druze men gather near the armistice line that divides the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights from Syrian-controlled territory on November 3, 2017 after hearing of a jihadist attack on a Druze village on the other side

Police arrested seven Druze residents of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Tuesday on suspicion of rioting in support for fellow Druze under jihadist attack on the Syrian-controlled side of the armistice line.

Dozens of Druze had gathered at the armistice line on Friday as the Syrian government-controlled village of Hader on the other side came under attack by fighters of the country’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.

“Some of those gathered began rioting, assaulted police officers, damaged the border fence and even crossed the border,” Israeli police said in a statement.

Seven suspects from the Druze villages of Majdal Shams and Ein Qiniya were arrested, two of them minors.

“One of those arrested is suspected of breaching the fence and crossing the border,” police said, adding that the action had not only caused damage but could also have endangered civilians and security personnel.

A court in the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona remanded the five adult suspects in custody until November 12. The court was yet to rule on a police request to remand the two minors.

The Friday attack on Hader, which began with a suicide bomber blowing up a car and killing nine people, raised concern among Golan Druze for the fate of their co-religionists at the hands of the Sunni extremists of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).

The outcry prompted the Israeli army to issue a rare statement pledging to “prevent Hader from being harmed or occupied”.

The army had attempted to seal off the armistice line near Hader to prevent Druze crossing over to the village to help defend it but a small number managed to get through before being caught and returned.

Smoke billows from the Syrian village of Hader on November 3, 2017 after a jihadist suicide bomber blows up a vehicle

Approximately 20,000 Druze live in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Many have family ties with Druze in Syrian government-controlled territory.

Hader lies in Syria’s Quneitra province, around 70 percent of which is held by HTS or other rebel groups while the government controls the remaining 30 percent, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Israel seized 1,200 square kilometres (460 square miles) of the Golan Heights from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

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