Israeli aid group fears more chemical attacks if US strikes Syria
"The belief that indifference kills is stronger than any fear," says leader of Israeli NGO of the prospect of being killed by Muslim Brotherhood or Assad's government while giving aid to Syrian refugees.
The Jerusalem Post reported on September 9 that an Israeli non-profit organization has donated 70 tons of sanitation items, 670 tons of food, 120 tons of basic home items and 20 tons of medication to Syrian refugees. According to the UN, refugees from Syria’s current crisis now number more than 2 million. The Israeli daily said that the name of the nonprofit remains unnamed so as to protect the lives of its team members and local contacts. The paper quoted ‘Yael’ – a pseudonym of the founder – as saying “Nobody asks permission to kill. We do not ask permission to save lives.” She added, “We don’t care about political agendas…We don’t work for anybody, just for our conscience.”
The NGO consists of more than 1,200 Israelis who have completed military service and represent a variety of professional backgrounds. They contribute to the operations in four fields: medical, post-trauma care, mass feeding and rescue. While the state of Israel helps where it can, said Yael, “We don’t come to replace the State of Israel.” However, the activist said that her organization seeks to help countries not currently receiving official help from Israel, while engaging in person-to-person assistance.
The group has delivered, through what it calls the ‘IL 4 Syrians’, hundreds of tons of basic food; sanitation items including soap, toothbrushes, women sanitation kits, toilet paper and tissues; vital refugee items such as insulating material, mattresses, blankets, iron sheets to build housing units and water canteens; and 300,000 dry meals, each meant to feed five people for a week.
IL 4 Syrians also provides emergency medical aid such as medication, surgical supplies and field surgery tents, designed to provide as sterile as possible an environment to perform operations. Also provided are post-trauma care for children and women, and trained teenage boys to use digital cameras and satellite transmitters to “take shots that the media will want to see,” while teaching them to remain untraceable and out of danger.
“We believe that if the US strike takes place, Assad will use more chemical weapons,” Yael said. “We are currently fund-raising to purchase some 3,000 special protection kits for Syrian medical teams who work in field hospitals and clinics in 14 different towns in Syria.”
Yael’s group has encountered significant challenges while operating underground. Yael said, “The Muslim Brotherhood there has been distributing aid at mosques, but there are some people who for certain reasons are not permitted to enter a mosque.”
Yael explained, “The problem is that the Muslim Brotherhood is fighting anybody who tries to distribute aid in other ways. Some of the members of those Syrian democratic groups that we are in touch with got kidnapped and beat up for that.”
The group has observed that the Assad regime has cut off water supplies in regions affected by the use of chemical weapons. Water is essential for people in those areas in order to rinse their bodies from the chemicals, she said.
The group has carried out its charitable activities in many countries, including Sudan, Pakistan, Myanmar (Burma), Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Iraq. Yael said that her colleagues have families and understand the risks faced by those countering the Muslim Brotherhood or the Syrian government. Understandably fearful, Yael said “There is no smart way to deal with fear. But the choice to do this, to feel that you are in the right place at the right time and that you are helping make a significant change, is so rewarding.”
“I think that for most of my volunteers, what they fear more than death is indifference,” she said. “The belief that indifference kills is stronger than any fear.”
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