Israel has been secretly providing aid to Syrian rebels groups in the Golan Heights for years, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.
According to the report, Israel has offered rebel groups medical supplies and humanitarian assistance, food, funding and even hard cash in order to safeguard the country's northern border with Syria.
The Wall Street Journal reported, citing interviews with half a dozen rebel leaders and three persons familiar Israel’s undeclared policy, that the Jewish state is helping these forces, who are opposed to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad and his Iranian, Lebanese and Russian allies in an effort to help set up a buffer zone on its border with forces friendly to Israel.
According to the report, Israel set up a special military unit in 2016 to oversee and coordinate the transfer of the aid, which helps groups pay salaries and buy weapons and ammunition.
This "secret engagement," as the report calls it, is aimed at strengthening Syrian rebel groups at the expense of forces hostile to Israel, namely Iranian proxy and Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, as well as various Iranian units fighting on Assad’s behalf in Syria.
Israel has dubbed this operation in the Golan Heights the "Good Neighborhood" policy, according to prominent Israeli journalist and analyst Ehud Ya’ari, who noted that it began under former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.
"Israel stood by our side in a heroic way," a spokesman for the rebel group Fursan al-Joulan, or Knights of the Golan, Moatasem al-Golani, told the Journal. "We wouldn’t have survived without Israel’s assistance."
Abu Suhayb, a nom de guerre of the commander who leads the group, told the newspaper he receives approximately $5,000 a month from Israel. According to the report, the group made contact with Israel in 2013 after a raid on regime forces and turned to Israel for help with its wounded. The group said it was a turning point as Israel then began sending funds and aid, assistance soon extended to other groups.
In response to the Wall Street Journal report, the IDF said Israel was "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."
[Source: The Times of Israel]