Israel announces end to Syria humanitarian aid

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The Israeli army on Thursday announced it was ending an operation it says was aimed at providing Syrian civilians with humanitarian and medical aid in the occupied Golan Heights.

Israel has had a policy of offering aid to Syrians who reach its lines, saying it was doing so without getting involved in the conflict.

“This humanitarian aid has ended with the return of the Syrian regime in the southern part of Syria,” the Israeli army said a statement.

In the past five years, 4,900 Syrian civilians including 1,300 children have been treated in Israeli hospitals, and 7,000 at a field hospital near the Golan ceasefire line, it said.

Food, medical equipment, medicine, tents, generators, fuel and clothes were provided to them as part of what the Israeli army dubbed “Operation Good Neighbor”.

But while it has provided aid since the outbreak of the conflict in Syria in 2011, Israel has consistently refused to host refugees from the war-ravaged country.

Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria around 50 years ago before annexing it in 1981, in a move never recognized by the international community.

It still occupies nearly 70 percent of the strategic plateau.

Israel says it has sought to stay out of the war in Syria, with which it remains technically at war.

But it has repeatedly carried out air strikes against forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad and his allies, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iran.

More than 360,000 people have been killed in Syria’s conflict since it erupted in March 2011 with protests against Assad’s regime.