According to the Wall Street Journal, the Israeli army is reportedly providing humanitarian and financial assistance on a confidential basis to several Syrian rebel groups in the Golan, including to enable fighters to arm themselves.
An investigation by the Wall Street Journal reveals that Israel provides assistance to several Syrian rebel groups in the border region of the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967. Quoting members of these groups of fighters as well as Israeli officials informed of the outlines of this very discreet aid, the newspaper claims that Israel is financing their struggle against Bashar al-Assad.
According to journalists, Israel set up a unit dedicated to this mission in 2016. Its objective would be to coordinate the transfer of money and humanitarian equipment to enable these rebel groups to pay their soldiers, purchase weapons and ammunition, and provide medical care. Some groups would receive $5,000 per month to cover these operating expenses necessary to maintain their operations.
Described as a “secret commitment”, the deployment of this strategy is in line with Israeli foreign policy in the region, marked by mistrust of Iran, an ally of the Syrian government, and an open conflict against Hezbollah, which is also fighting the Islamic state alongside Bashar al-Assad’s troops and its allies.
“Israel is helping us heroically,” enthuses a representative of the Fursan al-Julan group (also known as Moatasem al-Golani, (the Knights of the Golan), which has nearly 400 fighters), according to reports in the Wall Street Journal. “We would never have survived without Israel,” he says. According to Liwaa Ousoud al-Rahman, a fighter in another organization, “most people want to cooperate with Israel” among rebel groups.
In fact, cooperation between Israel and these fighters opposed to the Syrian government began in 2013, according to Abu Souhayb, a pseudonym of one of the representatives of these rebel groups. Initially limited to humanitarian aid, Israel’s action then extended to financial support, before attracting the interest of other groups, which in turn turned to the neighbouring State.
In response to these revelations, the Israeli army reacted. Without denying or confirming, an IDF spokesman told the Times of Israel that Israel was “engaged in an operation to secure its borders”, with the aim of neutralizing possible terrorist cells in the area. “In addition, we provide humanitarian assistance to Syrians living in the region,” he added.