JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel will not allow any Syrian refugees to enter its territory but will continue to provide them with humanitarian aid, Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Friday.
More than 120,000 people in southwestern Syria have been forced to flee since the Syrian government launched an offensive to recover an area bordering Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights from rebels, a monitoring group said.
The Israeli military said an increased number of Syrian civilians had been spotted in refugee camps on the Syrian side of the Golan over the past few days, and that it had overnight sent aid supplies at four locations “to Syrians fleeing hostilities”.
Lieberman remarks on Twitter reaffirmed Israel’s stance, and followed Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz saying earlier on Friday that the refugees would not be allowed to enter.
“We are closely monitoring events in southern Syria. We will guard Israel’s security interests. As always, we will be ready to provide humanitarian aid to civilians, women and children but we will not accept any Syrian refugee to our territory,” Lieberman wrote.
His tweet was published hours after the military said it had transferred the aid to southern Syria.
Footage released by the Israeli military on Friday showed a forklift truck unloading palettes with supplies that it said included 300 tents, 28 tonnes of food, medical equipment and medication, footwear and clothing.
Israel has refused to accept refugees fleeing the more than seven-year conflict in Syria, a country with which it remains officially in a state of war. Israel also accuses Iran of stationing military bases and personnel in Syria to use the war- torn country as a launch pad for attacks into Israel.
However, Israel has taken in several thousand Syrians for medical treatment since 2011. Wounded Syrians have been treated at field hospitals set up along the frontier with Syria in the Golan, and in Israeli hospitals.
Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Alison Williams