Israeli’s Are Destroying Israeli Democracy Themselves From The Inside

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

OP-EDWE’RE BEING BATTERED… FROM WITHIN

Israeli democracy isn’t broken, but it is under assault

Minorities are worried, their supporters are besmirched, key hierarchies are undermined, and our most hostile critics are empowered

David Horovitz
A man walks past a poster criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu near his residence in Jerusalem, as police investigators arrive to question him on corruption allegations, July 10, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A man walks past a poster criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu near his residence in Jerusalem, as police investigators arrive to question him on corruption allegations, July 10, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

There’s a purportedly reasonable explanation for everything.

The detention and questioning of Peter Beinart, when he flew into Israel earlier this week to attend his niece’s bat mitzva, was a mistake — a case of overzealous Shin Bet officers getting carried away. Just like the recent questioning at airports and border crossings of several other Israel-critics, whose challenges to government policy fall well within the parameters of legitimate free speech.

The predawn arrival of cops at the Haifa home of Conservative Rabbi Dov Haiyun, to take him to the police station for questioning one day last month, was another regrettable but atypical incident — in which police foolishly heeded instructions from some jumped-up nobody in the local rabbinate who had issues with Haiyun’s officiating at weddings.

The controversy over the candidacy of Yair Golan as the next chief of staff, who faces opposition because he has had the temerity to warn of dangerous trends in Israeli society and to assert that soldiers should be prepared to take risks in order to protect Palestinian civilians, is a minor fracas that is unlikely to affect the appointments process. He probably wasn’t going to get the job anyway.

The battle over who will helm Israel’s police is nothing to be too concerned about. Even though Roni Alsheich had made it known he wanted to stay on, and even though it doesn’t look terribly good for Benjamin Netanyahu to be replacing the law enforcement chief whose officers are investigating him in a welter of corruption allegations, the prime minister has every right and plenty of precedent not to extend Alsheich’s term for a fourth year.

The abrupt abrogation last year of the solemnly negotiated Israel-Diaspora agreement on pluralistic prayer at the Western Wall was an unfortunate consequence of Israeli realpolitik. The prime minister genuinely wanted to implement the deal, but believed he would no longer be prime minister if he did so, since his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners would bring him down.

The same goes for attempts to loosen the ultra-Orthodox rabbinate’s iron grip on life-cycle events — its monopoly on the formalities of how one gets born, converted to Judaism, married, divorced and dead in this country. And for efforts to resist ultra-Orthodox pressure for more stringent implementation of laws on Sabbath observance. And for the endlessly thwarted bid to conscript or enforce national service for young ultra-Orthodox Israelis: Unfortunately, all resistance is stymied by the coalition leverage of ultra-Orthodox MKs, an entirely legitimate function of our political system.

As for the prime minister’s zigzag on extending surrogacy rights to single-sex couples, here, too, he simply didn’t have the votes he needed.

The arithmetic was different for the nation-state law. If a phrase noting Israel’s commitment to full equality for all its citizens had not been excised from the text, support in the Knesset for the legislation, with its overdue definition of Israel as the “national home of the Jewish people,” would have been overwhelming. But the argument was made that provisions for equality are already enshrined in existing legislation, albeit without the actual word “equality,” and notwithstanding the fact that this is the law that defines the very nature of Israel.

The justice minister warned of an “earthquake” were the Supreme Court to dare to intervene and strike down the nation-state law. Plainly, such talk was out of line, but the justices, formidable and independent, are unlikely to be deterred — even though the composition of the Supreme Court is gradually changing as the self-same justice minister seeks appointees she thinks are not unsympathetic to her worldview.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Taken one at a time, ostensibly acceptable rationalizations can be found for all the crises and controversies I’ve listed. Taken together, the picture is bleak.

As those crises and controversies accumulate, the explanations stretch and strain but cannot cover the concern that what we’re witnessing is our democracy under assault from within.

There are attempts to intimidate the judiciary. The media is both demonized and compromised. Financial corruption goes untreated and seeps into politics

Israeli democracy isn’t broken. The attorney general will investigate the rash of border detentions. Haifa police likely won’t go round collaring too many non-Orthodox rabbis in the near future.

Crowds of Israelis will continue to demonstrate against the nation-state law, against alleged corruption in high places, against economic inequality, against the failure to legislate surrogacy rights for single-sex parent families, against religious coercion. Their concerns may even be heeded; they are guaranteed the opportunity to change their leadership if not.

But Israeli democracy is being battered. There are attempts to intimidate the judiciary. The media is both demonized and compromised. Financial corruption goes untreated and seeps into politics.

As a result of the abiding ultra-Orthodox monopoly, of the scrapping of the Western Wall deal, and of the government’s evident indifference or worse to the concerns of non-Orthodox religious Jews, millions at home and abroad feel alienated from the “national home of the Jewish people” that the government went to such lengths to declare.

As a result of that nation-state law, Israeli minorities worry about their status and their rights, and they and their supporters are besmirched for saying so. Backers of Israel overseas, who play an important role in defending the country against its legions of haters worldwide, find themselves baffled, defensive, even alienated; it gets harder to argue against allegations of discrimination when the Druze community, Israel’s own most loyal minority, is leveling the charge.

The prime minister’s rapid about-face on an agreement that he had rightly said represented the “best possible” resolution of the fate of tens of thousands of African migrants, because of mild pressure from a part of his voter base that would not tolerate providing residential status for fewer than 20,000 refuge-seekers, further undermines support and empowers detractors.

Key hierarchies are being undermined and corroded, as exemplified by Netanyahu’s allegations of police bias against him. People in positions of power are exercising it without due heed for essential rights and freedoms. Internalizing what is now expected, some, in organizations such as the Shin Bet and police force, are trending to the overzealousness epitomized by the detention of the visiting journalist and the summons of the non-Orthodox rabbi.

Uniquely in the Middle East, we in Israel have enjoyed free speech, freedom of religion, a free press, equality before the law, an independent judiciary and more.

But in this Israeli summer of 2018, there’s a chill in the air. There’s a danger — and it’s not only from Damascus and Tehran, Hamas and Hezbollah.

Israelis from the Druze community participate in a rally against Israel’s Jewish nation-state law, in Tel Aviv, August 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
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Justice minister warns of ‘earthquake’ if High Court overturns Jewish state law

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Justice minister warns of ‘earthquake’ if High Court overturns Jewish state law

Ayelet Shaked says top bench does not have the authority to strike down controversial legislation passed as quasi-constitutional Basic Law

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked at the Supreme Court hall in Jerusalem on August 2, 2018. (Marc Israel Sellem/Flash90)

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked at the Supreme Court hall in Jerusalem on August 2, 2018. (Marc Israel Sellem/Flash90)

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked warned of an “earthquake” if the High Court of Justice moves to overturn the controversial nation-state law.

Shaked also told Army Radio on Sunday that she did not believe the High Court has the power to strike down the legislation on constitutional grounds, because it was passed as a Basic Law, the constitutional underpinning of the Israeli justice system.

“Such a move would cause an earthquake between different authorities,” Shaked told the radio station when asked about possible judicial intervention over the law.

At least three petitions have been lodged with the High Court since the law was passed on July 19, demanding that justices overturn the law over its alleged discrimination.

“High Court justices are very serious and professional people,” Shaked said. “The Knesset is the constituent assembly, which defines and determines the Basic Laws. [The justices] have to interpret the laws in accordance with the Basic Laws, and I don’t believe a majority on the Supreme Court would take such a step.

“I very much hope this doesn’t happen, and I don’t believe it will,” she added.

For months Shaked, along with Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett, has been attempting to advance legislation broadly limiting the High Court’s circumvention power, but has made little headway despite having Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s support.

Shaked in her Sunday interview reiterated her support for the law, which has been increasingly criticized as discriminatory against Israel’s non-Jewish minorities.

Druze protesters at a demonstration in Tel Aviv against the nation-state law, August 4, 2018. (Luke Tress / Times of Israel staff)

“There is nothing revolutionary in this specific law,” she said. “It contains values that the state was founded on, values of settlement, immigration and national identity,” she said. “There is consensus about these values.”

The nation-state law enshrines Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people” for the first time, and says “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”

Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence defined the state as a Jewish and democratic one. The Netanyahu government says the new law merely enshrines the country’s existing character, and that Israel’s democratic nature and provisions for equality are anchored in existing legislation.

Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran, December 16, 2014. (Isaac Harari/Flash90)

But critics, both at home and abroad, say it undermines the constitution’s commitment to equality for all its citizens. It has prompted particular outrage from Israel’s Druze community, whose members say the law’s provisions render them second-class citizens.

In its petition to the court, the left-wing Meretz party said the law contradicts a previous basic law passed in 1992 that guarantees “human dignity” for all citizens of Israel.

Representatives of the Druze and Bedouin communities have also petitioned the court to overturn the law.

Last week, retired Supreme Court judge Salim Joubran spoke out against the “unnecessary and bad” law. In an Israel Radio interview, Joubran said the law creates “a superior class and an inferior class,” and called for it to “nullified as quickly as possible.”

On Sunday, Netanyahu defended the law as “vital” for ensuring that “Israel will remain the Jewish nation-state for generations to come.”

Pushing back against the weeks of Druze-led protests against the law, Netanyahu insisted that “no one has harmed or intends to harm individual rights.”

Protesters wave Israeli and Druze flags at a demonstration against the nation-state law, in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on August 4, 2018. (Luke Tress / Times of Israel staff)

More than 50,000 Israelis, waving Israeli and Druze flags and calling for equality, gathered at Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Saturday night to demonstrate against the law. Leaders of the Druze community were among the key organizers of the demonstration.

Beyond angering the Druze, the law has sparked widespread criticism from Israel’s other minorities and opposition parties, the international community, and Jewish groups abroad.

The law also downgrades the Arabic language from official to “special” standing, but cryptically stipulates that “this clause does not harm the status given to the Arabic language before this law came into effect.”

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Tel Aviv readies for Druze-led mass protest over controversial nation-state law

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

((OPED BY OLDPOET56)) I AM A CHRISTIAN WHO LIVES IN THE UNITED STATES BUT IF I WERE EVER ABLE TO AFFORD TO MOVE TO ISRAEL I WOULD STILL HAVE TO AGREE THAT ISRAEL IS A “JEWISH STATE”. ISRAEL WAS, IS AND WILL ALWAYS BE A ‘JEWISH STATE’ UNTIL THE SECOND ADVENT. THIS IS JUST AN OLD MANS OPINION WHOM HAS STUDIED THE BIBLE SINCE ABOUT 1966.)

Tel Aviv readies for Druze-led mass protest over controversial nation-state law

Organizers say tens of thousands expected in Rabin Square to demonstrate against legislation criticized as discriminatory toward Israel’s minorities

Activists and supporters of the Druze community in Israel at a protest tent against the nation-state law passed by the Knesset in July 2018, in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square on August 1, 2018. In the background is a five-colored Druze religious flag representing five wise prophets of Al-Mowahideen (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Activists and supporters of the Druze community in Israel at a protest tent against the nation-state law passed by the Knesset in July 2018, in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on August 1, 2018. In the background is a five-colored Druze religious flag representing five wise prophets of Al-Mowahideen (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Tens of thousands of people are expected to gather in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square Saturday evening for a mass demonstration against the controversial Jewish nation-state law. Among the key organizers of the rally are leaders of the Druze community, whose members serve in the Israeli army and who have expressed particular outrage at the law’s provisions, saying it renders them second-class citizens.

The nation-state law — which for the first time enshrines Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people” and says “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people” — has sparked widespread criticism from Israel’s minorities and opposition, the international community, and Jewish groups abroad.

Participants and speakers at the rally are expected to include the Druze community’s top spiritual leader, Sheikh Muafak Tarif, Brig. Gen. (res.) Amal As’ad, former Shabak heads Yuval Diskin and Ami Ayalon, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, former Mossad head Tamir Pardo, and TV host and social commentator Lucy Aharish.

Police announced that from 18:30 (6:30 p.m.) the following streets will be blocked: Ibn Gvirol between Arlozorov and Shaul HaMelech, David HaMelech from Weizmann to Ibn Gvirol, Frishman from Masaryk Square to Ibn Gvirol, and Bloch from Arlozorov to Ibn Gvirol.

Organizers of the protest, slated to begin at 20:30 (8:30 p.m.), set up a protest tent in the square a week ago so that passers-by could discuss the law.

Activists and supporters of the Druze community in Israel set up a protest tent in Tel Aviv on August 1, 2018. ( Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The nation-state law has been criticized as discriminatory toward Israel’s non-Jewish minorities, and also downgrades the status of Arabic so that it is no longer an official language in Israel.

The legislation has prompted particular outrage from the Druze community, which takes pride in its service in the Israel Defense Forces.

Unlike Arab Israelis, members of both the Druze and Circassian minorities are subject to Israel’s mandatory draft and serve in large numbers alongside Jewish soldiers in some of the IDF’s most elite units.

Since the beginning of the week, several Druze IDF officers have said they will resign their commissions in protest of the legislation, which was passed as a Basic Law on July 19.

People take part at a protest march against the proposed Nation-state Law in Tel Aviv on July 14, 2018. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

On Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu angrily walked out of a meeting with Druze leaders when a prominent Druze activist and former IDF brigadier general criticized the controversial nation-state law passed last month.

Netanyahu was apparently enraged by Brig. Gen. (res.) Amal As’ad accusing him of turning Israel into an “apartheid state” and calling the law “evil and racist.”

Brig. Gen. (res.) Amal As’ad. (Hadashot TV screen capture)

As’ad on Friday told Hadashot news he said no such thing, implying Netanyahu was looking for an excuse to end the meeting.

“I wrote a post 10 days ago in which I wrote that if that law is realized Israel is on the path to apartheid, and I’m not the only one saying that,” he said.  He also insisted that he had not crashed the meeting, contrary to some accounts.

But Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, who was in the meeting, disputed his account.

“I heard with my own ears the outrageous statement that Israel is an apartheid state,” said Levin.

As’ad, a former infantry commander and veteran of multiple wars who lost a brother in fighting in the Gaza Strip, in the past expressed support for the Likud party. He has been active in initiatives to commemorate the sacrifices of Druze IDF soldiers.

He urged Druze to come to Tel Aviv on Saturday and take part in the protest. “Tomorrow’s demonstration is for the state of Israel, not against it,” As’ad said.

Netanyahu has been trying to placate Druze anger at the new law with a package of benefits.

A concession plan envisions new legislation to anchor the status of the Druze and Circassian communities in law and provide benefits to members of minority groups who serve in the security forces, the PMO said in a statement Wednesday. Support of Druze religious, education, and culture institutes would also be included in the legislation.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 2r, meets with the spiritual leader of the Druze community in Israel, Sheikh Muafak Tarif, 2l, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on July 27, 2018. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

In addition, recognition of the contribution made by all minorities and communities that participate in the defense of the state would be written into the country’s Basic Laws.

In an apparent protest against the legislation, President Reuven Rivlin has reportedly vowed to sign the nation-state law in Arabic. Dr. Thabet Abu Rass of the Abraham Fund, which supports Jewish-Bedouin coexistence, claimed Monday that Rivlin made the comment at the sidelines of a conference in the Bedouin village of Kuseife that aimed to bolster employment rates in the Arab community.

A spokesperson for Rivlin on Tuesday declined a Times of Israel request to confirm or comment on the matter.

On Sunday, Rivlin met with regional council heads from the Druze community, who also slammed the law. He told them that “our partnership exists at the core and foundation of this state.”

“I expressed my opinion during the Knesset discussions,” he added. “I have no doubt that you are legally equal, and we should make sure that you also feel equal.”

The legislation, proponents say, puts Jewish values and democratic values on equal footing. Critics, however, say the law effectively discriminates against Israel’s Arabs and other minority communities. The law became one of the Basic Laws, which, similar to a constitution, underpin Israel’s legal system and are more difficult to repeal than regular laws.

Last month, thousands rallied in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square to protest the exclusion of gay couples from a recently passed surrogacy law. Gay rights advocates and their supporters also observed an unprecedented one-day strike throughout the country.

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PM walks out on Druze over criticism from leader who had warned of ‘apartheid’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

PM walks out on Druze over criticism from leader who had warned of ‘apartheid’

Incensed over Facebook post from last month in which Amal As’ad said Israel was headed toward ‘apartheid,’ Netanyahu ends summit meant to solve nation-state law crisis

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 2r, meets with the spiritual leader of the Druze community in Israel, Sheikh Muafak Tarif, 2l, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on July 27, 2018. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 2r, meets with the spiritual leader of the Druze community in Israel, Sheikh Muafak Tarif, 2l, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on July 27, 2018. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu angrily walked out of a meeting with Druze leaders on Thursday evening when a prominent Druze activist and former IDF brigadier general angrily criticized the controversial nation-state law passed last month.

The tense meeting, which included ministers Yariv Levin and Ayoub Kara, came two days before a planned mass protest in Tel Aviv organized by Druze activists and fellow opponents of the nation-state law in its current iteration.

At the meeting, held in the IDF headquarters compound in Tel Aviv, Brig. Gen. (res.) Amal As’ad told Netanyahu the Druze weren’t interested in a new benefits package, but in feeling like part of the nation.

Netanyahu then stood up, insisted he would not allow disrespect of an Israeli prime minister or the state, and suggested the meeting continue in his office in a smaller forum that included the community top spiritual leader, Sheikh Muafak Tarif, and mayors of Druze towns, but without As’ad and other Druze former top IDF officers who are leading the campaign against the law.

Brig. Gen. (res.) Amal As’ad in Tel Aviv on August 2, 2018. (Hadashot TV screen capture)

According to As’ad, who spoke to Hadashot television news after the meeting, Tarif refused the smaller meeting, and Netanyahu left the room.

The Druze leaders then walked from the Kirya compound to Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, where preparations for the Saturday night demonstrations are already underway.

Netanyahu was apparently angered by a recent Facebook post from As’ad in which he accused the prime minister of leading Israel on a trajectory of becoming an “apartheid state,” and called the law “evil and racist.”

Initial reports from the Prime Minister’s Office had indicated that As’ad repeated the apartheid claim during the sit-down with Netanyahu, sparking the walk-out, but As’ad said late Thursday those reports were wrong.

“The word ‘apartheid’ was not used during the meeting with the prime minister at all,” he said in a Facebook post. “The solution to the crisis is in the hands of the prime minister and I’m confident he can solve it if he wants.”

As’ad, a former infantry commander and veteran of multiple wars who lost a brother in fighting in the Gaza Strip, in the past expressed support for the Likud party. He has been active in initiatives to commemorate the sacrifices of Druze IDF soldiers.

Yesh Atid leader MK Yair Lapid charged in a tweet Thursday that Netanyahu “has once again shown that what he wants is not a nation-state law, but a fight over the nation-state law” for ostensible narrow political gain.

Sheikh Muafak Tarif, spiritual leader of the Israeli Druze community, attends a conference of the Zionist Druze Movement in Herzliya, on July 16, 2018. (Flash90)

The meeting between Druze leaders and the prime minister followed two weeks of anger and protests among the Druze community over the Knesset’s refusal to include any mention of equality for minorities in the nation-state law, which attempts to enshrine Israel’s character as a Jewish state.

While Netanyahu met the Druze leaders, the law’s original sponsor, Likud MK Avi Dichter, faced the community’s rage at a ceremony to honor Druze veterans at a college in the northern town of Carmiel.

“You dog, you racist,” one man shouted at Dichter, bursting onto the auditorium stage. The man was later identified as Amir Hanifas, head of the newly-formed Forum Against the Nation-state Law.

Activists and supporters of the Druze community in Israel hold a protest tent against the nation-state law passed by the Knesset in July 2018, in Tel Aviv on August 1, 2018. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Dichter’s security guards attempted to intervene, but the lawmaker, a former head of the Shin Bet security service, pushed the guards away.

“Look at these kids,” Hanifas yelled at him, pointing to the young veterans. Hanifas told Dichter he “should be ashamed” and “shouldn’t appear before the Druze.”

Hanifas then reportedly called Dichter a “Nazi,” leading the lawmaker to shout back, “I won’t be called Nazi. I lost family to the Nazis, when they murdered my mother’s family. I’m called Avraham Moshe for my grandfather who was murdered by Nazis.”

Dichter’s encounter took place at a ceremony handing out scholarships to 80 Druze IDF veterans from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews at Carmiel’s Ort Braude technical college. The academic scholarships are named for the late Salim Shufi, a Druze former member of the Sayeret Matkal commando unit.

כאן חדשות

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פעילים בני העדה הדרוזית התפרצו לנאומו של ח״כ אבי דיכטר בטקס הענקת מלגות לימודים לסטודנטים בני העדה בכרמיאל. דיכטר, מיוזמי חוק הלאום, נשאר על הבמה. הפעילים קראו לדיכטר להתבייש ואמרו לסטודנטים שהיה עליהם לסרב לקבל את המילגה @nitzanglusman

Hanifas was detained by police after the incident.

In a statement before the Carmiel ceremony, the Fellowship said the meeting between Dichter and Druze veterans would be “an opportunity for open and honest dialogue with the youth of the [Druze] community about the nation-state law and the controversy it has sparked.”

Netanyahu has been trying to placate Druze anger at the new law with a package of benefits.

A concession plan envisions new legislation to anchor the status of the Druze and Circassian communities in law and provide benefits to members of minority groups who serve in the security forces, the PMO said in a statement Wednesday. Support of Druze religious, education, and culture institutes would also be included in the legislation.

In addition, recognition of the contribution made by all minorities and communities that participate in the defense of the state would be written into the country’s Basic Laws, which, similar to a constitution, underpin Israel’s legal system and are more difficult to repeal than regular laws.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with representatives of the Druze community at his office in Jerusalem on August 1, 2018. (Prime Minister’s Office)

Unlike Arab Israelis, members of both the Druze and Circassian minorities are subject to Israel’s mandatory draft and serve in large numbers alongside Jewish soldiers in some of the IDF’s most elite units.

Since the beginning of the week, several Druze IDF officers have said they will resign their commissions in protest of the legislation, which was passed as a Basic Law on July 19.

The nation-state law — which for the first time enshrines Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people” and says “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people” — has sparked widespread criticism at home including from Israel’s minorities and opposition political parties, and from the international community and Jewish groups abroad. It also downgrades the status of Arabic so that it is no longer an official language in Israel.

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Suicide attack kills 9 in Syria’s Golan Heights (Druze) village

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTANI NEWS AGENCY ‘DAWN’)

 

A suicide car bomb attack killed nine people in a government-held village in Syria’s Golan Heights on Friday, state media said, reporting clashes between government forces and militants afterward.

State news agency SANA said the car bomb hit the outskirts of the village of Hader, which lies near the disengagement line that divides the Syrian-controlled part of the Golan from that occupied by Israel.

“A suicide bomber from Al-Nusra Front detonated a car bomb in the midst of the village, located on the outskirts of Hader, killing nine people and injuring at least 23,” the agency said.

Al-Nusra Front is the old name for a militant group that was formerly Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria and is now known as the Fateh al-Sham Front.

“In the aftermath of the terrorist attack, terrorist groups carried out a heavy attack on Hader, and army units and the Popular Defence units [pro-government militants] clashed with the attackers,” SANA added.

The agency said the toll was expected to rise because a number of those wounded in the bombing were in serious condition and the ongoing assault on the town made it difficult to remove the injured to a safe place.

Hader is a majority-Druze village and has been attacked in the past by rebel and militant groups.

It lies in southwestern Syria’s Quneitra province, around 70 per cent of which is held by either rebel or militant groups, with the government controlling the other 30pc, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.

Israel seized 1,200 square kilometres of the Golan Heights from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it, a move never recognised by the international community.

The Israeli army said on Friday that a civilian in the town of Majdal Shams in the Israeli-occupied part of the Golan was lightly wounded as a result of “shots fired from Syria”.

It said the shots were “stray fire resulting from the intense fighting on the Syrian Golan Heights”.

Israeli army spokesman, Brigadier General Ronen Manelis, said the military was ready to “prevent Hader from being harmed or occupied, as part of our commitment to the Druze population”.

Nearly 140,000 members of the Druze minority, which follows a secretive offshoot of Shia sect, live in Israel and the Israeli-occupied Golan.

In Majdal Shams, residents approached the disengagement line but were prevented from crossing to support villagers in Hader by the Israeli army, which closed off the area.

Some Syrian Druze have expressed sympathy for the opposition since the start of the civil war but the community has largely been loyal to the regime.

Russia accuses US of blocking humanitarian aid in Syria

Russia on Friday accused the United States of committing a “war crime” in Syria, saying its army had denied Syrian refugees access to humanitarian aid.

“The most severe humanitarian situation remains in the Al-Tanf region,” the Russian defence ministry’s Syria reconciliation centre said, referring to a garrison where US and other foreign troops train anti-Islamic State group fighters.

Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees from the Al-Rukban refugee camp on the Jordanian border are deprived of humanitarian aid because of the United States, which “illegally placed their military base there and forbids approach within 55 kilometres under the threat of death,” the centre said.

“The actions of the US military and the so-called international coalition in Al-Tanf are a gross violation of the international humanitarian law and could qualify as a war crime,” it said in a statement quoted by Russian news agencies.

Earlier this month Moscow accused the US of supporting IS militants and enabling them to mount counter-offensive attacks in eastern Syria from near the Al-Tanf garrison.

Al-Tanf, on the key highway connecting Damascus with Baghdad, has been repeatedly menaced by a surge of Iran-backed troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Washington says the garrison is used by US and British special forces to train rebel Syrian groups fighting IS militants.

Russia has been flying a bombing campaign in Syria since 2015 when it stepped in to support the Assad regime and tipped the conflict in his favour.