Middle East Monitor / February 3, 2020
Former Israeli army General Gadi Eisenkot has gone on record affirming long-held allegations that Israel has directly provided weapons to Syrian opposition fighters against the government of President Bashar Al-Assad.
According to Haaretz, the revelations made last month, depart from Israel’s previous media policy on the subject, whereby it has insisted that Tel Aviv has only provided humanitarian aid to civilians, via field hospitals in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights and healthcare facilities in northern Israel.
Eisenkot has become the most senior Israeli official to admit Israel’s role in the Syrian conflict and its support for armed opposition groups, including terrorists affiliated with Al-Qaeda. In 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported that Israel has been supporting the rebels for years and that the Israeli army is in regular communication with rebel groups, including sending undisclosed payments to help pay the salaries of fighters, with an established Israeli military unit that overseas such support. “Israel stood by our side in a heroic way,” said Moatasem Al-Golani, spokesman for the rebel group Fursan Al-Joulan. “We wouldn’t have survived without Israel’s assistance.”
In the revealing interview with the Sunday Times, Eisenkot justified the cross-border support to Syrian rebels as being “for self-defense” in reference to operations to counter Iran’s influence in the country, claiming: “We carried out thousands of attacks [in recent years] without taking responsibility and without asking for credit.”
The Times of Israel at the time stated that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policy of “general acknowledgment, specific ambiguity” on Syria has since been dropped in favour of openly acknowledging strikes carried out.
Daniel Levy writing for Haartez argued that Israel “has religiously adhered to the official party line that the country’s policy was non-intervention”, these new revelations, he says, may significantly inhibit Israel’s abilities to carry out “influence operations” in future.