The reported number of victims and photos of children's bodies coming out of Syria these past few days have been universally condemned, but there are some in Israel understood a year ago what horrible acts were being committed along the Syrian border. Since July 2011, a group whose identity has been kept confidential has been working in secret to aid victims of President Bashar Assad's regime.
"We meet many wounded – men, women, and children," a spokesman for the group said. "In recent weeks, our volunteers have met – among others – a Syrian man who lost one of his eyes to shrapnel and was in danger of losing sight in his other eye. It was clear that if he wasn't operated on immediately, his (remaining sight) would be irreversibly damaged."
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Representatives of the group submitted an official application to bring the man to Israel. The Health Ministry "quickly agreed to fund the operation and just as quickly, the security establishment agreed to allow him in, along with his wife and four young children," the director of the organization said.
According to the director, the necessary operation was approved and arranged to take place at Sourasky Medical Center, with the Health Ministry footing the bill.
A young boy escapes the slaughter in Syria. (Photo: AP)
As per procedure, the group then applied to the Interior Ministry for permission to bring the patient and his family into Israel. "We were sure that he'd be approved without guarantees, as happens with other humanitarian visas," the group said. "We are not the only organization that works to bring foreigners to Israel for treatment."
However, not only did the Interior Ministry insist on a monetary guarantee, but Interior Minister Eli Yishai himself set the amount: NIS 200,000 that would ensure that the man and his family left Israel after the operation. The man did not have the money, and the ministry's demand effectively torpedoed his chances of having the operation.
"In April, a plane carrying 210 Eritrean pilgrims landed in Israel. For the entire plane, (the Interior Ministry) demanded a guarantee of NIS 200,000. Are this Syrian refugee, his wife, and children 'worth' an entire plane?" the group asked.
A Bahreini woman protests the violence in Syria. (Photo: Reuters)
MK Israel Hasson, a former Shin Bet official and himself a native of Syria, is very familiar with the organization's work and calls Yishai's decision "senseless and contemptible."
"One day, the state of Israel will be asked where we were when the Syrian people were slaughtered," Hasson said. "This is a man who is about to lose his sight. There is no security risk in bringing him to Israel; we're talking about bringing him in for a medical procedure and returning him immediately afterward."
"Syrians have never had – and will never have – a chance to return home once it becomes known that they were in Israel. This poor guy is risking his life every day he's here, and will lose everything if (they) find out he visited (Israel)," Hasson explained.
The MK called on Yishai to allow the man into Israel for treatment immediately and "stop messing around."
"There is no danger to Israel in treating the wounded who are brought here by the best of our own people, and if another 50 arrive, I'd advise letting them in, too," Hasson said.
A spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry said in response to the report that "The minister himself had set the amount of the guarantee, as explained to the head of the group. Any questions should be addressed to the minister for his response."
Yishai's personal spokesman responded: "Any interference by Israel in what is happening in Syria – which is an enemy state – is a delicate matter and should be treated as such. Discussing the issue in the media could damage the goal, which is to treat the Syrian citizen in question and (the possibility) of treating other Syrians in the future."
The spokesman said that the figure of NIS 200,000 had been set according to the number of people arriving. "If the man were coming alone, or with a single aide, the amount of the guarantee would be significantly reduced."
Moreover, the spokesman continued, there were currently over 100,000 Syrian citizens in Jordan seeking medical treatment of one kind or another. "To keep the option of medical treatment in Israel viable for the future, the Interior Ministry must act responsibly. Interior Minister Eli Yishai is doing and will do a great deal for the health and security of citizens of other countries – whether we have (official) ties or not – but will not compromise the security of (our) country and citizens," he stated.