The top brass of the Israel Defense Forces is bitterly divided over the decision last week to allow seven wounded Syrians into Israel for medical care. GOC Northern Command Maj. Gen. Yair Golan approved the decision without consulting his superior, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz. The chief of staff was extremely unhappy that he was only notified of the decision after Golan had already issued commands to forces in the field. Gantz's main concern stemmed from the fact that the entry of Syrian refugees into Israel is a highly delicate issue, and he does not want to set a precedent.
A military source said Sunday that the IDF chief may very well have approved the decision, had he been notified, especially since one of the Syrians was very seriously wounded, and because the decision involved the entry of a limited number of Syrians. According to the source, "The IDF chief of staff would have preferred to be briefed in advance on the issue."
Gantz and Golan, who maintain a close personal relationship, are still on good terms and it appears that the incident has not put a strain on their friendship.
The IDF has been preparing for the possibility of an influx of Syrian refugees for quite some time, as civil war rages across the border. The stated policy is that the IDF will not allow refugees to enter Israel except in extreme cases, which will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
To minimize the potential damage caused by the entry of the seven refugees, military officials issued a statement explaining that the situation was a "pinpoint incident" and that "Israeli policy is to not allow anyone to cross the border fence, except in extreme cases."
Syrian rebels earlier overran a military police checkpoint in Khan Arnabeh, a town in the Golan Heights near the cease-fire line along the demilitarized zone with Israel, a British-based violence monitoring group said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the rebels seized weapons and a tank and the Syrian army shelled villages inside the Israeli-Syrian cease-fire area. It was not clear if the Syrians being treated in Israel were wounded in that incident.
Meanwhile, the IDF is studying the possibility of setting up a field hospital on the border to treat the wounded coming from Syria.
The IDF Spokesperson's Unit issued a statement saying that "the decision (to allow entry) was made by the relevant channels and in accordance with the necessary operational considerations."
In the meantime, the seven Syrians are still being treated at the Ziv Medical Center in Safed under heavy security. One of the patients is in critical condition and may not survive. The remainder of the Syrians have undergone surgeries and are all in stable condition.
Fearing for their lives, Israeli officials are considering the possibility of not turning the refugees over to the Syrian authorities upon their recovery. In all likelihood, they will be transferred to a third country that supports the Syrian rebels.
Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis in Syria are still underway. U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has called on the warring sides to enter into a dialogue, to be mediated by the U.N. Damascus has responded positively to the call, but the head of the opposition has insisted that they will only talk with Assad's deputy, Farouk Ashara.