Covert Is­raeli aid to Syr­ian rebels bared

Cash, food supplied for years

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD - ANA

RU­MOURS have been cir­cu­lat­ing for years about Is­rael’s in­volve­ment in Syria’s civil war de­spite the Is­raeli govern­ment say­ing it was keep­ing out of the bloody con­fla­gra­tion.

Al­though the Is­raeli me­dia and UN ob­servers in the oc­cu­pied Golan Heights have openly re­ported wounded Syr­ian rebels be­ing trans­ported into Is­rael for med­i­cal treat­ment, ac­tive sup­port for the fight­ing has not sur­faced – un­til now.

The Wall Street Jour­nal (WSJ) re­ported that Is­rael has been se­cretly pro­vid­ing aid to Syr­ian rebels in the Golan Heights for years with the goal of main­tain­ing a buf­fer zone of friendly forces to keep the Is­lamic State (IS) and forces aligned with Iran at bay.

The sup­port has been sub­stan­tial and di­rect, in­clud­ing cash funds, food, fuel and med­i­cal sup­plies, cre­at­ing a re­al­ity in which sev­eral armed groups and much of the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion in the area are re­liant on Is­raeli aid, the Wall Street Jour­nal re­ported.

The re­port’s find­ings are based on in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by “half a dozen rebels and three peo­ple fa­mil­iar with Is­rael’s think­ing”, who said that Is­rael’s se­cret deal­ings with the rebels be­gan as early as 2013 un­der for­mer Is­raeli de­fence min­is­ter Moshe Ya’alon and that they con­tinue to this day, with the goal of keep­ing pro-Ira­nian groups, like Hezbol­lah, away from the bor­der.

The Wall Street Jour­nal’s sources stated that the co-op­er­a­tion in­volved a spe­cial Is­raeli army unit which pro­vided aid. Fur­ther­more, this co-op­er­a­tion had ad­vanced to the point where a spe­cific bud­get had been set aside by the Is­raelis for con­tin­ued co-op­er­a­tion.

The main group co-or­di­nat­ing with Is­rael, the Fur­san Al Joulan (Knights of the Golan), re­ceives ap­prox­i­mately $5 000 (R64 647) a month which is used to pay salaries and to pur­chase weapons.

How­ever, it re­ceives no other Western sup­port and is un­af­fil­i­ated with the Free Syr­ian Army (FSA). “Is­rael stood by our side in a heroic way,” the group’s spokesper­son, Moatasem Al Golani told the Wall Street Jour­nal.

“We wouldn’t have sur­vived with­out Is­rael’s as­sis­tance.” Golani said co-op­er­a­tion be­gan when wounded fight­ers from among the group’s ranks reached the Is­raeli bor­der where they begged for help from Is­raeli sol­diers who spoke Ara­bic.

Sub­se­quently, a se­cret chan­nel was es­tab­lished af­ter they were taken for med­i­cal care.

Fou­san Al Joulan com­prises about 400 fight­ers.

It is al­lied with four other groups on the Syr­ian side of the Golan Heights, all of whom are be­ing aided by Is­rael and some of whom re­ceive Western back­ing and are af­fil­i­ated with the FSA.

There are fears that these rev­e­la­tions could ex­ac­er­bate ten­sions be­tween the Jewish state and Syria with the two coun­tries still tech­ni­cally at war de­spite many years of a cold peace.

The Is­rael De­fence Forces has re­fused to com­ment on the is­sue.

PIC­TURE: AP

Mem­bers of the US-backed Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces look to­wards the north­ern town of Tabqa.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.