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Armed Conflict

Israeli soldiers come to aid of several wounded Syrians

Israel has provided medical assistance to several wounded Syrians who turned up near a security fence on the Golan Heights. This followed a battle between Syrian troops and rebels over a town on the Heights.

Soldiers from the Israeli army provided first aid to at least five wounded Syrians on Saturday. However, it was not immediately clear whether they were civilians or combatants in the neighboring country's civil war.

There was also no official comment on how the Syrians crossed the frontier, although Israeli media reported that they had been allowed over after they had approached the security fence that separates Israel from Syria.

The AFP news agency quoted an Israeli military spokesman who said that "soldiers provided medical care to five injured Syrians adjacent to the security fence" on the Golan Heights and transferred them to a hospital for "further medical treatment."

A spokeswoman at the Ziv hospital in the northern Israel town of Safed told AFP that one was seriously wounded, while the others were in “moderate” condition.

Israel's deputy prime minister appeared to play the news down. Speaking to Channel 2 television, Moshe Yaalon described it as "an isolated incident on humanitarian grounds of wounded people who reached the border."

Yaalon also stressed that Israel's policy of staying out of the Syrian conflict remained unchanged.

Fighting on Syrian side of Heights

The incident came on the same day that Syrian rebels are reported to have overrun a military checkpoint at the Golan Heights town of Khan Arnabeh. Government troops responded by shelling both that town and the nearby village of Jubata al-Khashab, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed in 1981, has been tense since the outbreak of the Syrian uprising nearly two years ago.

Meanwhile, the London-based Observatory also reported on Saturday that about 300 mainly Sunni Muslims had been kidnapped in Idlib province this week.

"We have information that the number could reach 700," the head of the Observatory, Rami Abdel Rahman, told the DPA news agency.

These latest kidnappings are thought to have come in retaliation for the abduction of 42 Shiite Muslims, mainly women and children, earlier this week.

This, like most of the London-based group's reports from the war-torn country, could not be independently verified.

pfd/mkg (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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