The Israel Defense Force (IDF) has revealed details of a field hospital it has opened to treat Syrian civilians who are injured in the conflict between Bashar al-Assad’s regime and the wide array of rebel groups, many of them Islamist. The hospital’s precise location cannot be revealed for fear that it would be targeted, and the images of patients treated at the hospital have been digitally blurred to prevent retaliation against them when they return.
In a blog entry on the IDF’s official website, the Israeli military describes the risks involved. Not only are the soldiers risking their lives in a war zone to treat foreign civilians, but they have no way of obtaining medical information about the patients who slip out of Syria. Occasional doctors’ notes, “written in Arabic or English, have become the only form of communication between doctors from the two countries,” the IDF explains.
The field hospital has helped ease Syrians’ mistrust of Israel, cultivated by generations of war and propaganda. The commanding officer is Colonel Tariff Bader–a member of the Druze Arab population, many of whom are loyal Israeli citizens and serve in the Israeli army. “Some patients who arrived unconscious were shocked to find themselves in Israel when they woke up,” Bader explains, describing the depth of anti-Israel suspicions.
Once Syrians receive medical treatment–and meet Israelis, and Jews, for the first time–they have a different view. Still, the IDF notes: “Once the patients return to Syria, any evidence of their presence in Israel can put their lives in grave danger. In order to keep the civilians safe, the IDF takes painstaking measures to remove any indication that they received care in Israel.” Sadly, there is little chance of follow-up monitoring or care.