UN details Israel helping Syrian rebels at Golan Heights

Free Syrian Army fighters (AFP Photo/James Lawler Duggan)
Israeli security forces have kept steady contacts with the Syrian rebels over the past 18 months, mainly treating wounded fighters but possibly supplying them with arms, UN observers at the Israeli-Syrian border reported.

In a series of reports to the UN Security Council by the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), there are a number of documented instances (March 2013 – December 2014) of Israeli Defense Forces' (IDF) dealings with “armed members of the opposition” on the Israeli-Syrian border of the Golan Heights.

The reports do not distinguish various Syrian militants fighting against President Bashar Assad, which range from West-supported Free Syrian Army to the radical Islamists of the Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS.

“UNDOF sporadically observed armed members of the opposition interacting with IDF across the ceasefire line in the vicinity of United Nations position 85,” the most recent report reads.

The October 27 report states two unknown people entered Israel from the Syrian side of the border after two IDF soldiers had opened a gate, allowing them in. That same report also details the IDF's incursion into Syrian territory to set up tents for 60-70 families some 300 meters from the Israeli side.

Members of jihadist group Al-Nusra Front (AFP Photo/Karam Al-Masri)

Israeli newspaper Haaretz explains that in September, Damascus had sent a letter of complaint to UNDOF, claiming that the camp was a“base”for“armed terrorists,”and would be seen as a legitimate target for military engagement unless demolished by Israel.

Prior to that, a report issued June 10, 2014 to the UNSC said UN observers witnessed IDF soldiers handing two boxes with unknown contents to Syrian rebels on the Syrian side of the border.

The timing of the incidents corresponds with the withdrawal of most UN troops from the Syrian to the Israeli sector of the buffer zone in September after Al-Qaeda-linked fighters kidnapped dozens of peacekeepers.

READ MORE:43 UN peacekeepers in Golan Heights seized by militants

Stretching for 70 kilometers from Lebanon to Jordan, Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War. Syria unsuccessfully tried to retake the Golan Heights during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The two countries signed an armistice in 1974 and a UN observer force has been in place on the ceasefire line since then.

Most documented exchanges between IDF and Syrian militants are humanitarian in nature and show the Jewish state treating wounded arriving from the Syrian side.

AFP Photo/Thomas Coex

For instance, the June 10, 2014 report accounts 59 incidents at Position 85 where UN team “observed armed members of the opposition transferring 89 wounded persons from the Bravo side across the ceasefire line to IDF and IDF on the Alpha side handing over 19 treated and 2 deceased individuals to the armed members of the opposition on the Bravo side.”

Israel’s Ministry of Health indicated that Israel treated about 1,000 Syrians at four hospitals in the north of Israel, among them fighters from the Free Syrian Army, Israeli news site i24news.tv reported.

The news outlet also noted that last month, Israel’s Druze minority protested against the treatment of extremists in Israel, as Israel’s Druze community largely support Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria.

The IDF, when reached by i24 confirmed that, “in the past two years Israeli Defense Forces have been engaged in humanitarian, life-saving aid to wounded Syrians, irrespective of their identity.”