Israel has reportedly been regularly supplying Syrian rebels near the border for years with money, food, fuel and medical equipment, The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday. according to the New York Times.
IDF is in regular communication with rebel groups and its assistance includes undisclosed payments to commanders that help pay salaries of fighters and buy ammunition and weapons, according to interviews with five Syrian rebels.
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Israel purpose of the covert involvement is to create a buffer zone between the two countries populated by friendly forces.
An unnamed source told the newspaper that Israel has established a secret military unit with a special budget to oversee aid to the Syrian rebels.
Since 2013, Israel has in the past treated some 3,000 wounded Syrians, many of them combatants, in its hospitals and has provided humanitarian aid such as food and clothing to civilians during winter.
People who spoke to the Wall Street Journal claimed that Israel’s involvement is much deeper and more coordinated than previously known and entails direct funding of opposition fighters near its border for years.
Moatassem al-Golani, the spokesman for the rebel organization Fursan al-Joulan said: “Israel stood by us in a heroic way; we wouldn’t have survived without its aid.”
Israel’s wants to keep Iran-backed soldiers allied with Syrian President Bashar Assad regime, such as Hezbollah, away from the Israeli 45-mile stretch border on the Golan Heights, three people said.
Fursan al-Joulan’s commander, known as Abu Suhayb, told the newspaper that his group receives $5,000 a month from Israel. Fursan al-Joulan is not linked to the Western-backed Free Syrian Army and doesn’t receive Western funding or arms.
Fursan al-Joulan is the main rebel group in contact with Israel and the IDF. According to Syrian rebels quoted in the report, contact with Israel was initiated in 2013.
Assad regime has been accusing Israel of supports rebel groups and conducts airstrikes in Syrian territory to undermine the regime’s control.
In IDF respond to the newspaper: “IDF committed to securing the borders of Israel and preventing the establishment of terror cells and hostile forces … in addition to providing humanitarian aid to the Syrians living in the area.”
The threat of a permanent presence of Iran and Hezbollah on the border with Syria could possibly drag the IDF into the civil war.