Druze men look at smoke rising on the Israeli-controlled side of the line dividing the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights from Syria following fighting near the Quneitra border crossing
Druze men look at smoke rising on the Israeli-controlled side of the line dividing the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights from Syria following fighting near the Quneitra border crossingReuters

A wounded Syrian rebel being taken to an Israeli hospital has died after being attacked by Druze villagers on the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights.

The rebel was in an Israeli ambulance that was passing through the village of Majdal Shams with another wounded Syrian who sustained serious injuries in what the Israeli media termed a lynch.

It was the second attack by Druze on an Israeli army ambulance on 22 June. Syrian Druze, who have largely remained loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, have been attacked by Islamist and secular rebels.

The Druze are an offshoot of Islam. Their main beliefs are known only to a few and they are loyal to which ever country they live in. While Israeli Druze are loyal to the Israeli state, Golan Druze tend to ally themselves with Assad's brutal regime.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it "a very grave incident. We will not permit anybody to take the law into their own hands, and we will not allow anyone to hamper Israeli soldiers in the course of their duty. I call on Druze leaders to act immediately to calm tensions."

Haaretz reported that the protesters removed two wounded Syrians from the ambulance and beat them. The ambulance was also damaged..

The second wounded Syrian was being treated at an Israeli hospital and was in serious condition and two Israeli military ambulance crew were lightly hurt, police and the army said.

In an earlier incident, the Jerusalem Post reported, an Israeli army ambulance carrying Syrian casualties was stopped by several people on the outskirts of Hurfeish, a Druze town in the north of Israel proper.

The ambulance escaped the scene, but was attacked by stone-throwers.

Ayoob Kara, a Druze deputy Israeli minister, said Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon had told him Israel would not admit fighters from radical jihadi groups Islamic State or Nusra Front. Israeli officials have said they did not condition treatment on casualties' affiliations.

"I must stress that the rumours circulating about us providing assistance to Nusra Front are not true. We are strictly engaged in humanitarian aid," an Israeli military source told the Maariv newspaper.

"This incident is an incident that will change the situation here," the senior military official added. "We're talking about a very serious incident of an attack on a military vehicle that engages in saving lives."

In a statement to Reuters, Sheikh Muwafaq Tarif, spiritual head of Israel's Druze community, condemned the confrontation as "the kind of provocation that harms our interests and those of our Druze brothers over the border".

"This is our moment of truth," he said. "The Druze religion and tradition opposes any physical harm, especially against wounded people."