GOLAN HIGHTS / BEIRUT (Reuters) – Dozens of Syrians approached the Golan Heights on Tuesday across the Israeli border to seek obvious help or shelter from an offensive by the Syrian army backed by Russia before returning after a warning by Israeli forces.
Tens of thousands of Syrians arrived near the Israeli Golan Heights last month. They fled from a rapid offensive that had defeated the rebels in a sub-zone near Jordan and Israel.
"Come back before something bad happens." "If you want us to help you, come back," said an Israeli army officer on the Israeli side of the boundary barrier of an Arab mob through a megaphone. "Hurry up."
The offensive has unleashed the greatest expulsion of the war, with several hundred thousand people uprooted. Both Israel and Jordan have declared that they will not allow Syrians to invade their territory.
Israel, which conquered the Golan in the 1967 Middle East war, provided humanitarian aid to refugees in camps near an Israeli-Syrian withdrawal in 1974. Many of the displaced are in the protection zone, which is monitored by a US force .
Syrians approaching the border fence stopped about 200 meters before an Israeli soldier told them to leave.
"You're on the border with the State of Israel. Come back, we do not want to hurt you," the soldier called in Arabic through a loudspeaker in the crowd, live Reuters showed TV material.
The crowd, which included women and children, slowly returned to the refugee camp. Some stopped in the middle of the road and waved white shawls towards the Israeli border.
The offensive supported by Russia has made rapid progress without the foreign opposition of President Bashar al-Assad. The United States, which had once armed the southern rebels, told them they should not expect them to intervene when the attack started last month.
A witness on the Syrian side of the Golan border said the noise of the bombing was approaching. The UN said last week that as many as 160,000 Syrians have fled to the province of Quneitra, some close to the Golan area.
Syrian state television program from a hill captured by rebels on Monday overlooking the Golan border. Government fighters fired their guns and showed Assad photos as they celebrated al-Haara mountain on the spot.
"We will free all of Syria," one of the soldiers said.
Israel has threatened a harsh reaction to any attempt by the Syrian armed forces to engage in the withdrawal zone, complicating the government's approach to the border.
Israel does not want its enemies to move Iran and Hezbollah, allies of Assad, troops near the border. The Shiite forces supported by Iran, including Hezbollah, were crucial to Assad's achievements.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who spoke on Monday with US President Donald Trump, stressed the need to reconstruct the situation along the Golan borders with the state that existed before the outbreak of the 2011 Syrian war.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urges Putin to curb Iranian and Iranian troops in Syria.
Hezbollah-controlled al-Manar TV said the Syrian army had conquered one of the last rebel-controlled areas in Deraa al-Aliyeh province.
At least 14 people, including five children and some women, were killed when government forces bombed the nearby village of Ain al-Tineh, 10 km from the Golan border, according to the Syrian Observatory for Rights human.
(The story was rejected to remove the superfluous words in the last paragraph)
Reporting by Rami Amichay and Tom Perry in Beirut; Written by Tom Perry in Beirut and Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Angus MacSwan