On Tuesday, dozens of displaced Syrians marched toward the Israeli border by the Golan Heights after at least 10 were killed in a Russian backed airstrike that hit a school. Those marching demanded protection from the government offensives, asking Israel to open the borders.
In a Jerusalem press conference, Syrians at the border spoke with Israeli and foreign journalists by video conference. Abu Hossain, a coordinator in the Quneitra region and southwestern Daraa province of Syria reported that the majority of those affected by the airstrike were children and women.
“Tens of refugees are approaching the Israeli fence,” said Hossain. “We are facing a horrible and terrible situation. I want the whole world to hear us and deliver our message we are in a critical situation,” he explained. “We are calling on Israel and the international community to provide us with protection and help.
According to Hossain, the refugees are scared of the Russian airstrikes and the approaching regime, which he said is just 10 kilometers from the refugee camps.
“The Syrian regime is really bad. They take away the bodies of the dead from their graves. Just recently, they took one body buried 11 years ago from the grave,” he said.
Abul Bara, a human rights activist, approached the border saying, “After the terrible scene from the most recent airstrike, we were afraid of our future and safety and that’s why we left our tents to march to the fence, asking Israel to open it. Airstrikes are coming close to us and we want to break the fence but the Israeli patrol from the other side are patrolling the border.”
As journalists heard airstrikes over the video feed, Bara said, “These strikes are not far from buffer zone,” he said, referring to the buffer zone created in 1974 as a part of the Agreement on Disengagement signed between Israel and Syria and monitored by the United Nations. But since most UN staff have moved from Syria due to the civil war, there is no presence enforcing Syrian military presence in the buffer zone.
“We hope Israel and Syria reactivates the agreement and it will be under full control of opposition who will control villages along the border. We are able and capable of doing it.”
Abdel Kareem, originally from Damascus, recently fled from Quneitra to the border with Israel. He stated, “I fled Quneitra 10 days ago because there is no possible way to stay there. Killing and destruction are everywhere. Nothing remains. No buildings or even trees.”
Kareem maintained that there are nearly 300,000 refugees in the camps along the border with Israel. He called this area “the Syrian occupied Golan Heights” and continued, “We see what Israel does – it is only country providing humanitarian support and aid, including tents and a small medical clinic, and opening areas for the wounded during the war.”
“But it is not enough,” he said. “We are 10 families living in one tent.”
“We are human beings under siege,” he pled. “There is no opposition left. We are civilians with no weapons and we are under attack. We have no aid and no support. There are no doctors, medicine or health treatments here. Our only option is to cross the fence to Israel, that is the only place we will feel safe.”
Each of the Syrian refugees expressed their pessimism in Syria’s future. Years ago, many Syrian refugees refused to have their photos taken, fearing backlash by the Syrian regime. But now, they say that there “is nothing left to lose” and “there is no future here.”
Kareem begged, “Our future has disappeared. It is lost. We are human and looking for a political solution. This is our demand.”
Om Mohammad, a 30-year-old also from Damascus, fled five years ago to Quneitra with her brothers and relatives but in the recent attacks, she moved to stay near the border with Israel. Her husband is wanted by the Syrian regime, like many others, and was searching for bread at the time of the video call.
Mohammad is now living in Al-Briqa refugee camp, is a mother of four and eight months pregnant.
“I haven’t found a tent so I sleep under the trees with my children,” she said. “There is not enough medical treatment for being pregnant,” Mohammad explained, calling on the international community to provide them with protection.
“Have mercy on us, we are suffering,” she begged. “We saw kids lose legs, eyes, and we don’t want this to be our destiny. We will be slaughtered or killed any moment.”
She continued, “We want to live normally with stability, we want Israel to protect us. I believe Israel is the safest place for me. Israel will rescue us from what we are witnessing. It is the only body and institution to protect us and we want them to open the border and bring us into Israel.”
She voiced her dream of making a home in Israel if the borders are opened, but is skeptical that Israel would open the border for so many refugees. “People are really afraid to go back to their villages they fled from.”
Mohammad Sharif agreed, praising Israel for opening the border for injured Syrians. “Our enemies are Syrians backed by Russia. We don’t see Israel as an enemy.”