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Wounded Syrian dies as Druze attack Israeli ambulance: Police

Druze citizens of Israel threw stones at an ambulance carrying wounded Syrians to the hospital in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, police say
Druze stand in the village of Ain Al-Tina in the Golan Heights shout greetings to their relatives in Majdal Shams in 1998 (AFP)
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JERUSALEM - A wounded Syrian died on Monday when Druze citizens of Israel attacked an Israeli military ambulance taking him to hospital for treatment, police said.

"A crowd attacked an ambulance with stones near Majdal Shams on the Golan Heights," said a police statement.

The ambulance was transporting two wounded Syrians, police said, adding that one of the injured "died after the attack".

It said that the second Syrian was in serious condition, and that two soldiers who were also inside the vehicle had been lightly wounded.

The statement did not identify the Syrians or give further details about their injuries before the attack.

Israeli public radio earlier said that around 200 Druze from Majdal Shams had pelted the ambulance with stones, forcing it to stop, and dragged the wounded Syrians from the vehicle.

The attack came amid growing concern for the fate of Syria's Druze minority, traditional allies of President Bashar al-Assad, who are surrounded by rebels in the country's more than four-year civil war.

Tensions have flared in Druze areas of northern Israel and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights after rebels surrounded a government-held Druze village on the Syrian side last week.

Israel's Druze are concerned for the fate of their brethren in Syria, and the Israeli army has pledged to protect any refugees who flee across the ceasefire line to the Israeli-occupied side.

On 10 June, at least 20 Druze were killed in an unprecedented shoot-out with al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front in northwestern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Monday's attack came hours after another group of Druze also blocked and threw stones at an army vehicle they believed was transferring wounded Syrian rebels for treatment, police said.

Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri said the first incident happened in the northern town of Horfish in the Golan Heights and that the Druze tried to check the identities of those inside the ambulance.

The Druze threw stones at the vehicle as it tried to drive off, she said, adding that one Druze was moderately injured in the incident.

Israel shares a ceasefire line with Syria on the Golan Heights, and has let hundreds of wounded Syrians into the country for medical treatment.

Officials say there are 110,000 Druze in northern Israel, and another 20,000 in the Israeli-occupied Golan.

Israel seized 1,200 square kilometres (460 square miles) of the Golan Heights in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.