JERUSALEM: Israel must prevent the entry of refugees fleeing fighting in Syria, a senior Israeli cabinet minister said on Friday.
The remarks by Yuval Steinitz, energy minister in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, came on the same day that the Israeli military said it had transferred humanitarian aid to southern Syria.
“I think we must prevent the entry of refugees from Syria to Israel, in the past we have prevented such cases,” Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz told Tel Aviv Radio 102FM.
More than 120,000 people in southwestern Syria have been forced to flee since the Syrian government launched an offensive to recover an area bordering Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights from rebels, a monitoring group said.
The Israeli military said an increased number of Syrian civilians had been spotted in refugee camps on the Syrian side of the Golan over the past few days, and that it had overnight sent aid supplies at four locations “to Syrians fleeing hostilities.”
Footage released by the Israeli military on Friday showed a forklift truck unloading palettes with supplies that it said included 300 tents, 28 tons of food, medical equipment and medication, footwear and clothing.
Israel has refused to accept refugees fleeing the more than seven-year conflict in Syria, a country with which it remains officially in a state of war. Israel also accuses Iran of stationing military bases and personnel in Syria to use the war- torn country as a launchpad for attacks into Israel.
However, Israel has taken in several thousand Syrians for medical treatment since 2011. Wounded Syrians have been treated at field hospitals set up along the frontier with Syria in the Golan, and in Israeli hospitals.
“We will continue to do what is necessary (for the refugees). I don’t want to go into details (but) our greater worry is … that Iran is trying to turn Syria into a forward military post to confront Israel,” Steinitz added.