TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday denied a Wall Street Journal report that Israel has been providing rebel groups in Syria with secret funds, fuel, food and medical supplies.
“We do not intervene in this terrible, bloody conflict, but we do provide humanitarian assistance to boys and girls,” Netanyahu said according to Channel 2. “It is expensive, but we will continue to invest.”
The prime minister made his remarks during a visit to the Ziv Medical Center in Safed, where more than 2,000 Syrians wounded in the civil war have received treatment. Many more have received treatment at a field hospital near the border with Syria.
“I see men, women and children who viewed us as enemies when they arrived here,” he continued. “They [now] understand more than ever that the State of Israel is a moral stronghold and a ray of light in our region” where “all are treated equally” irrespective of their religion and origin.
Netanyahu on Monday also issued a warning to Iran, which over the weekend launched a strike on Syria purportedly targeting the Islamic State in retaliation for the Tehran attacks.
“We, the IDF and our security forces, are monitoring all the time Iran’s activities in the area,” Netanyahu told Likud lawmakers. “These include their attempts to establish themselves in Syria and, of course, to transfer advanced weapons to Hezbollah, and other things. We are tracking their actions and also their words.”
“And I have one message for Iran — don’t threaten Israel,” Netanyahu said.
The Times of Israel summarized the Wall Street Journal report:
Citing interviews with half a dozen rebel leaders and three persons familiar Israel’s undeclared policy, the Sunday report in the Journal claimed that Israel set up a special military unit in 2016 to oversee and coordinate the transfer of financial aid — valued at some $5,000 per month — to rebel forces opposed to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad and his Iranian, Lebanese and Russian allies.
This “secret engagement,” the report said, is aimed to help ensure that forces friendly to Israel control the Syrian side of the northern Golan border. The aid, said the Journal, helps the groups pay salaries and buy weapons and ammunition.