PM rejects WSJ report Israel gives financial aid to Syrian rebels

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday rejected a Wall Street Journal report claiming Israel provides financial aid to rebel groups in Syria.

“We do not interfere in this terribly bloody conflict. We do, however, provide humanitarian aid to young boys and girls,” Netanyahu said. “It is expensive, but we will continue to invest.”

Netanyahu was speaking on a visit to Ziv Medical Center in Safed, where a new radiotherapy department was opened Monday. Ziv has treated hundreds of victims of the Syrian civil war, and many more have been treated at a field hospital the IDF maintains at the Syrian border.

The prime minister said that more than a thousand Syrian men, women and children had been treated at Ziv. “They once saw us as enemies,” he said of these patients, “but here they realize more than ever that Israel is a moral bastion and a beacon of light in the region,” where “all are treated equally,” irrespective of their religion and origin.

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.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits an IDF field hospital treating wounded Syrians, on the Golan Heights on February 18, 2014. (photo credit: Kobi Gideon /GPO/FLASH90)

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.

A separate UN report, published last month, describes a series of meetings between Israeli military representatives and Syrian rebel leaders near the…

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