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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

In Enemy Hands: Israel extends compassion to treat hundreds of wounded Syrians

The Syrian in the Israeli hospital bed said he'd been riding his motorcycle in his village when a shell struck, sending him crashing into a nearby vehicle

With one of his legs shattered and an arm broken, he was taken to a clinic operated by the rebel Free Syrian Army and then moved through a hole cut in the fence on the Israeli-held Golan Heights. Now he's being treated along with about a dozen other wounded Syrians in the Western Galilee Hospital in Nahariya, a town on Israel's northern coast

Syria and Israel are formally at war, and the idea of Syrians being treated in an Israeli hospital once would have been unthinkable. But the brutality of the Syrian civil war has driven some 200 wounded Syrians in the past six months to seek help at the Israeli frontier on the Golan Heights, according to the Israeli army.

Soldiers take them to a field hospital for treatment and triage, with more serious cases sent to hospitals in northern Israel. About 100 have been treated at the Nahariya hospital, with more arriving as news of the Israeli medical aid spreads by word of mouth.

For the man in the bed, who declined to be named for fear of retribution against his family back home, treatment in Israel has been a profoundly transforming experience.

"I thank the Israeli army," he said. "Two and a half years of revolution have changed my opinion of Israel. Look what Bashar Assad" — Syria's president — "has done to his people. Everything he says is a lie. He spreads hatred of Israel, but Israel is a friend, not an enemy. The Israelis showed us their humanity."

Joel Greenberg

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