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April 04, 2014

Israel lobbying Syrian rebels to protect its interests Xinhua 04 04 14



http://www.shanghaidaily.com/article/article_xinhua.aspx?id=204888

(Xinhua) -- Israel's recent moves in the occupied Golan Heights, including providing medical treatment for Syrian rebels and repositioning its troops in a border town near Syria, have given a sign that the country is trying to repeat a scenario in 1980s when it used pro-Israel Lebanese militia as a defense line to protect its own interests, analysts say.

"What concerns Israel is its security and what we have witnessed of the repositioning in the Israeli-occupied Ghajar town and the lobbying of the rebels in southern Syria are attempts by Tel Aviv to create a southern Syrian rebel army akin to what it did in the Lebanese civil war in 1980s," Maher Murhej, a political analyst and the head of the Youth Party, told Xinhua in a phone interview Wednesday.

A report by the Lebanese al-Akhbar newspaper, citing remarks of a senior Israeli officer, said last month that Israel had received a total of 1,600 Syrian rebels and provided them with medical treatment in its hospitals in northern Israel near the occupied Golan Heights.

Meanwhile, the report said the contacts between Israel and the Syrian rebels have not only been confined to treating the wounded Syrian rebels but also extended to creating a sort of understanding with the rebels in southern Syria in case of a possible government collapse in Syria.

During Lebanon's civil war, Israel supported the South Lebanon Army (SLA), a Lebanese militia that operated in southern Lebanon and was largely backed by Israel during the 1982-2000 south Lebanon conflict to fight against the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Hezbollah.

Israel supported the SLA to serve as a defense line against the PLO and Hezbollah, and its recent moves are believed to repeat the same scenario, according to analysts.

"We are witnessing the same attempt in southern Syria and that was evident by Israel's moves in al-Ghajar town. And the buffer zone between Israel and Syria is now a hotbed for the armed rebels, who don't want to launch attacks against Damascus but to entrench in that area to protect the security of Israel and its settlements, " Murhej told Xinhua.

Abdul-Hamid Salhab, another analyst, echoed Murhej, but added that such attempts will fail due to the strong presence of the Syrian army.

On Wednesday, Israel fired multiple rockets from the occupied Golan Heights on a town in Syria's southern province of Qunaitera.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry said the attacks were signs of the Israeli coordination with the Syrian rebels.

Also, Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said the Israeli attack was a response to the Syrian military's "pre- emptive" operation that thwarted Israel's bid to establish a safe zone near the Golan Heights.

The military's "pre-emptive" operation was a series of battles against the armed rebels in different areas in southern Syria, experts say.

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