Israel discreetly funded and armed at least 12 rebel groups in southern Syria in order to keep Iranian-backed militias and Islamic State fighters away from Israel's border, Foreign Policy magazine reported on Thursday.
Foreign Policy's Elizabeth Tsurkov interviewed more than two dozen members of the rebel groups, who reported that Israel's support took place in recent years and ended last month.
The weapons transfer, according to the report, included assault rifles, machine guns, mortar launchers and transport vehicles, all delivered through three border crossings – gates that connect the Golan Heights and Syria.
These crossings are the same ones through which Israel transferred humanitarian aid to Syria.
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According to Tsurkov, Israel paid each rebel approximately 75 dollars per month, with additional money transfers for the groups to purchase weapons on Syria's black market.
When Bashar Assad's forces retook south Syria in July, rebel groups expected Israel to intervene, due to the support they had received, sources told Tsurkov. One fighter said: “This is a lesson we will not forget about Israel. It does not care about … the people. It does not care about humanity. All it cares about it its own interests.”
Similar reports about Israel's support to Syrian rebels were published in 2017.