JERUSALEM, Israel – The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced it is ending its Good Neighbor mission, which delivered tons of food, fuel and other necessities to war-ravaged Syria.
“After two years of complex, wide ranging and extensive humanitarian aid, which has helped thousands of Syrian civilians, the ‘Good Neighbor’ Command has ended its activities,” the IDF said in a statement.
The move comes after Syrian President Bashar Assad’s troops regained control in southern Syria – an area that was held by rebel groups over the past seven years.
“The command provided humanitarian and medical assistance to the citizens of Syria out of the importance of human life and as a gesture of good will and is part of the extensive humanitarian aid that was provided by the IDF over the past five years,” the statement said.
Although Israel and Syria are enemy states, Israel’s border with Syria along the Golan Heights had been one of its quietest since the 1973 Yom Kippur War. But with the outbreak of the Syrian civil war seven years ago, that changed.
“Following the Syrian Civil War, which broke out in 2011, Israel and the IDF were face with a number of challenges on the border, which until then was quiet for decades,” said Lt. Col. E., head of the Good Neighbor Command.
“Over the past two years the command operated nightly, sometimes numerous times each night and passed tens of tons of humanitarian aid,” he said.
That aid included 1,700 tons of food, 8,200 packages of diapers, 49,000 packages of baby food, 1,100,000 liters of fuel, 26,000 cases of medical equipment and 40 vehicles.
“Roughly 700 humanitarian operations, which were carried out…over the border, allowed the Syrian population that lives next to us to improve their quality of life, even slightly, and provided them with some hope,” Lt. Col. E. said in a video message.
“We understand that we have managed to secure the northern border whilst perhaps changing the minds of the people who hated us and now might not feel that way,” he said.
“Several medical care facilities were established during the operation, including the 'Mazor Ladach' field hospital, where approximately 7,000 patients were treated over its one year of activity, a hospital in Bariqa, a maternity care unit and clinic in Jabta and a "doctor's visits" program in which 1,300 children were treated and dozens had surgeries in Israeli hospitals,” the IDF statement said.
CBN News reported on the Good Neighbor project several times, including joint work of the IDF with Evangelical Christian Ministries of Frontier Alliance International and Friend Ships, Camp Ichay.
Maj. Dr. Sergey Kotikov, former head medical officer of the Good Neighbor Command, said about 20 children crossed the border each week for medical tests in Israeli hospitals. Some were brought back later for further treatment and surgery.
“I think that in this way we are able to help at least some of the population and provide them with decent medical assistance,” Kotikov said.
During the past five years, about 4,900 wounded Syrian civilians, including 1,300 children, were treated in Israeli hospitals.
“The extensive aid activities led by the IDF in the Syrian Golan Heights is further expression of the values which guide its conduct, including supporting civilians in need of assistance, even beyond the borders of Israel,” the statement said.