Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that Israel doesn't intervene in the Syrian civil war, but does provide humanitarian assistance.
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Netanyahu made the remarks after The Wall Street Journal reported that Israel has been secretly providing aid to Syrian rebels in the Golan Heights for years, with the goal of maintaining a buffer zone of friendly forces to keep ISIS and forces aligned with Iran at bay.
"We don’t get involved in what's going on over there, in this terrible reality, but we do provide humanitarian assistance to kids, youths and women," Netanyahu said during the inauguration of a cancer treatment center in Safed.
"I see people here who once saw us as enemies, and they understand more than ever that the state of Israel is a moral beacon for the world," the prime minster said, evidently referring to Syrians wounded in the war and being treated in Israel. "The treatment is expensive, and we will continue to invest."
The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that the support Israel has been providing to Syrian rebels 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 Wall Street Journal based its findings 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 Defense 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.
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.