Israel has opened its borders with Syria in order to provide medical treatment to Nusra Front and al-Qaida fighters wounded in the ongoing civil war, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The prominent American newspaper reported that Nusra Front, the Sunni Muslim al-Qaida offshoot which is currently fighting the Iranian-backed axis of Bashar Assad and Hezbollah, “hasn’t bothered Israel since seizing the border area last summer” along the Golan Heights.
While Israel views al-Qaida and its allies as enemies, it is far more disturbed by what it views as an even bigger menace – Iran and its proxies. According to The Wall Street Journal, this attitude has caused tension with the United States, which has also targeted al-Qaida and Nusra Front fighters in Syria.
Amos Yadlin, the former military intelligence chief who is currently in the running to be defense minister should the Zionist Union, led by Isaac Herzog, succeed in defeating incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the elections next week, told the Journal that Hezbollah and Iran “are the major threat to Israel, much more than the radical Sunni Islamists, who are also an enemy.”
“Those Sunni elements who control some two-thirds to 90% of the border on the Golan aren’t attacking Israel. This gives you some basis to think that they understand who is their real enemy – maybe it isn’t Israel,” Yadlin is quoted by The Wall Street Journal as saying.
The fact that the Israel-Syria border area along the Golan Heights has remained largely quiet has sparked accusations among supporters of embattled President Bashar Assad that the Sunni Islamist alliance, which includes al-Qaida, is backed by Israel.
“Some in Syria joke: ‘How can you say that al-Qaida doesn’t have an air force? They have the Israeli air force’,” Assad told Foreign Affairs magazine earlier this year. “They are supporting the rebels in Syria. It is very clear.”
Israel has denied actively aiding al-Qaida, though it makes no secret of its determination to thwart Hezbollah’s attempts to establish a foothold near the Golan frontier from whence it could harass the North.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has stated repeatedly his contention that Iran is seeking to open a new front against Israel from the Syrian Golan Heights.
Earlier this year, an air strike attributed by international media reports to Israel struck and killed 12 Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hezbollah operatives in Quneitra, Syria, near the Israeli border.
In retaliation, Hezbollah guerillas launched a missile attack near the Har Dov region straddling the Lebanon-Israel border weeks later, killing two Israeli soldiers.
Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, which has claimed the lives of upwards of 200,000 people, Israel has provided medical assistance to nearly 2,000 Syrians.
The Wall Street Journal quoted “an Israeli military official” who said that most of those treated were armed rebels fighting the regime.
“We don’t ask who they are, we don’t do any screening,” the official said. “Once the treatment is done, we take them back to the border and they go on their way.”