Israel 'giving secret aid to Syrian rebels', report says

Syrian rebels

Syrian rebels

The civil war has sometimes spilled over into Israeli territory including errant fire between rebels and Syrian troops.

The report's finding 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. Israeli airstrikes have targeted forces in Syria on multiple occasions, mainly taking aim at weapons shipments en route to Lebanon's Hezbollah.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday rejected a Wall Street Journal report claiming Israel provides financial aid to rebel groups in Syria.

The main group coordinating with Israel, the Fursan Al Joulan (Knights of the Golan), receives approximately $5,000 per month which is used to pay salaries and to purchase weapons.

Israel may be funding up to four other rebel groups which have Western backing.

These sources told the Wall Street Journal that a special unit was carved out of the Israeli army to oversee to the aid operation and that Israel considers the situation far enough in advance that it sets out a specific budget to invest in the effort.

Moatasem al-Golani, a spokesman for the Fursan al-Joulan rebel group, told WSJ that Israel's support is essential and significant.

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 WSJ reported.

The WSJ report says the IDF refrained from commenting on their report, but did state that it 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".

"We do not intervene in this bad, bloody conflict, but we do provide humanitarian assistance to boys and girls", Netanyahu was quoted as saying by Israel's Channel 2 during a visit to the Ziv Medical Center in Safed, where, according to the prime minister, more than 2,000 Syrians wounded in the ongoing war in their home country have received treatment.

Israel and Syria have technically been in a state of warfare for decades.

While Assad has previously claimed the Jewish state supports rebel groups, which his government refers to as terrorists, elements of the opposition have accused Israel of helping to keep the regime in power. Syria controls around one third of the Golan Heights border, and Israel occupies the rest.

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