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Syrians fleeing war will not be allowed in Israel: Netanyahu

Displaced Syrians from Daraa have set up camps near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights [Getty]

Date of publication: 1 July, 2018

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Civilians fleeing Syria's war will not be allowed to enter Israel, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Sunday, echoing calls made by other hardline Israeli lawmakers

Civilians fleeing Syria's war will not be allowed to enter Israel, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Sunday, despite vowing his government was committed to providing displaced Syrians with humanitarian aid.

Tens of thousands of Syrians have fled a ferocious regime offensive in the country's southern rebel-held enclave of Daraa that started on June 19, and some have set up makeshift camps near the Golan Heights - Syrian territory that has been occupied by Israel since 1967.

"Regarding southern Syria, we will continue to defend our borders," Netanyahu said at the start of a cabinet meeting, referring to the "border" between the Golan Heights and Syria, which has been neither declared by Israel nor recognised by the international community.

"We will extend humanitarian assistance to the extent of our abilities. We will not allow entry into our territory," Netanyahu added.

Separately, Israel's military said on Sunday it had sent reinforcements to the Golan out of precaution.

Netanyahu echoed statements made by other hardline Israeli lawmakers, who insist no Syrian refugees should be taken by Israel. On Friday, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that Israel "will not accept any Syrian refugee to our territory".

During the conflict in Syria, Israel provided some humanitarian aid to civilians and rebel groups across the fence in the Golan. It has taken in some injured Syrians from Aleppo, however it has not granted asylum to anyone.

Cash-strapped Jordan has taken in some 670,000 Syrian refugees, neighbouring Lebanon nearly 1 million, and Turkey over 3.5 million.

Since June 19, backed by its ally Russia, the Damascus regime has carried out a deadly bombing campaign in southern Syria as it pushes to retake the strategic area bordering Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan.

The spike in violence over the past two weeks has forced around 160,000 people to flee their homes, according to initial United Nations estimates.

These include around 20,000 to areas near the Naseeb border crossing with Jordan, a country that already hosts more than 650,000 registered Syrian refugees and says the actual figure is closer to 1.3 million.

Amman has said it cannot open its frontier to any more Syrians fleeing the seven-year conflict, but on Saturday announced it had sent aid across the border to the displaced.

Israel seized a large swathe of the Golan Heights and adjacent areas from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967. It annexed that territory in 1981, a move never recognised by the international community.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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