The Syrian army on Monday displayed an Israeli-made Jeep it said was captured from a rebel organization during recent battles for control of Qusayr, a Syrian city near the Lebanese border. Damascus claimed the vehicle was proof of Israeli and U.S. aid to the Syrian opposition.
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Israeli officials denied the claims of aiding the rebels. They said the jeep was a model that was retired from Israel Defense Forces service years ago and it is not clear how it reached the rebels.
The Lebanese television station Al Mayadeen, which has ties to Hezbollah, broadcasted video of Syrian army personnel next to the Jeep, which showed bullet damage.
The vehicle is identifiable as a relatively old, armored model of the Sufa Jeep, which is manufactured in Israel under license from Chrysler.
Such vehicles have been used by the IDF for decades in the territories and were used by Israeli forces in the South Lebanon buffer zone until Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000.
The IDF license number, 669491, is clearly visible in the clip, as are the maximum speed limits and other markings typical of IDF vehicles.
The Syrian officer interviewed in the film said this was proof of Israeli aid to the Free Syrian Army, one of the major opposition groups behind the armed rebellion against Assad.
Israel has avoided providing logistical or military aid to the Syrian rebels, Israeli military sources told Haaretz. It seems the Jeep reached the rebels by chance, they said.
A preliminary IDF investigation conducted after the vehicle's capture was reported showed the Jeep was taken out of IDF service at least 10 years ago. It is thought that the Jeep may have been left behind in Lebanon in 2000, or sold as army surplus.
The IDF Spokesman's Office confirmed that the model in the video has not been used by the IDF for more than 10 years, adding, "This is another failed attempt of Syrian propaganda to direct false accusations against Israel."