Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said Monday that Israel is offering humanitarian assistance to Syrian rebels near the border, “on condition that they prevent terrorist organizations from nearing the border fence and that they refrain from attacking Druze.”
Yaalon was speaking at a briefing for Israel's diplomatic correspondents. He said that the rebels are taking over the Golan and defeating Syrian strongman Bashar al Assad.
Regarding the Druze in Israel and Syria, Yaalon said that surprisingly: "No terror attacks [against Israel] have emanated from the area under rebel control, but there have been terror attacks from the area under Druze control.”
He also said that last week's lynch attack on wounded Syrians by Israeli Druze, and some statements made by Druze leaders, had "caused a lot of damage," but he praised the head of the Druze sect in Israel, Muafak Tarif, and the heads of Druze municipal councils, for the way they have been handling themselves.
The defense minister explained that Israel has no intention of interfering in the civil war in Syria, but said that “there are red lines, and when they are crossed, we take action.”
Tarif was quick to react to Yaalon's statement. “We commend the defense minister for his direct statement,” the Druze leader said. “We are certain that the defense establishment will take action and ascertain that the condition it placed upon humanitarian assistance to the rebels is met.”
"The bond between the Druze sect and the state is strong and we are mutually responsible for each other. We have no interest and we do not request that the state of Israe become involved in the fighting in Syria, but it is important for us to do all that is possible and all that is needed, to make sure our Druze brothers are not harmed.”
Although he did not specify which rebel groups were receiving Israeli humanitarian aid, the only major rebel force along Israel's border with southern Syria is the Southern Front, a coalition of more moderate rebels. The Israeli defense establishment sees such as force as essentially the best of a bad bunch, given the alternatives: ISIS, Al Qaeda or Hezbollah and Iran.
In contrast, jihadist rebels – from Al Qaeda's Nusra Front to ISIS to other Salafist and Islamist factions – dominate the opposition in the rest of Syria.
However, the Nusra Front does have a presence in southern Syria as well – albeit a relatively small one – and has fought alongside Southern Front battalions both against regime forces and attempts by ISIS affiliates to make inroads in the south. The involvement of Nusra rebels is the main point of controversy for Israel's Druze community – particularly after 20 Druze Syrians were killed in a recent attack by Nusra.
Yaalon also spoke about the pro-terror flotilla to Gaza that the IDF intercepted before dawn. “It was a succesful action,” he said, “despite the lack of cooperation. The ship's crew sabotaged its engine and so we had to tow it. The rest of the ships in the flotilla turned around and headed back.”