The Press

Tel Aviv reveals secret aid mission establishe­d in Syria


ISRAEL: The Israeli army has revealed the scope of its humanitari­an aid in Syria, a massive effort intended to help civilians and limit Iran’s influence in the country.

It has delivered 360 tonnes of food and 450,000 litres of fuel across the border in the past year, as well as thousands of parcels of baby formula, clothing and other goods.

It is also helping to build two clinics inside Syria. They will be staffed by local medics and NGO workers.

More than 4000 Syrians have already received medical treatment in Israel, including 900 children.

Israel’s growing role in its northeaste­rn neighbour has been something of an open secret in recent months but the details were not made public until the army took a group of local journalist­s on a tour of the border. It has also promoted its efforts in a video called Operation Good Neighbour, which featured several Syrians speaking warmly about the country’s longtime foe. More than 500,000 people have been killed during the six-year civil war in Syria, and half of the pre-war population has been displaced, including five million refugees.

‘‘We cannot just stand aside and ignore this,’’ said Colonel Noam Fink, the chief medical officer of the northern command. Though Israel insists that it is motivated solely by humanitari­an concerns, there are also strategic considerat­ions. Officials admit privately that they hope friendly rebel groups in Syria will help to provide a buffer against militias that are backed by Israel’s arch-rival, Iran. - The Times

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