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Silence et embarras. Habituellement prompts à saisir la balle au bond - surtout lorsqu’ils sont en campagne électorale -, les responsables israéliens ne réagissent pas à la publication de plusieurs rapports rédigés par la Fnuod (une force de Casques bleus stationnée sur le plateau du Golan depuis 1974) décrivant la situation sur le terrain. Car ces documents confirment que des officiers de l’Etat hébreu entretiennent des contacts suivis avec certains des groupes rebelles combattant le régime d’Al-Assad. Parmi lesquels des islamistes du Front al-Nusra, la branche syrienne d’Al-Qaeda.

Soins. Certes, depuis 2013, la porte-parole de Tsahal publie régulièrement des communiqués affirmant que des civils et des rebelles syriens blessés sont hospitalisés de l’autre côté de la ligne de démarcation. A partir de 2014, Israël a d’ailleurs autorisé plusieurs équipes de télévision à interviewer ces personnes - uniquement des civils - et à filmer une partie des soins qui leur étaient prodigués dans les hôpitaux de Haïfa, de Tibériade et de Safed.

Mais les rapports de la Fnuod adressés aux quinze membres du Conseil de sécurité sont d’une autre facture que cette opération de propagande : ils révèlent que les rencontres entre militaires israéliens et rebelles syriens sont quasi quotidiennes depuis au moins dix-huit mois. Ces notes d’observation démontrent qu’un dialogue s’est instauré entre les deux parties le long de la ligne de séparation entre la Syrie et la partie du Golan occupée par Israël. Du 1er mars au 31 mai 2014, les Casques bleus ont ainsi comptabilisé 59 réunions.

Dans la foulée, ils ont constaté qu’en certaines occasions, Tsahal transfère des caisses aux rebelles, comme ce fut le cas le 10 juin. Que contenaient-elles ? Mystère. A deux occasions la Fnuod a aussi observé que des officiers israéliens faisaient pénétrer des rebelles en bon état de santé sur le territoire de l’Etat hébreu. Où se rendaient-ils ? Pour discuter avec qui ? Dans ce cas également, il n’y a pas de réponse. La majorité des contacts observés se sont déroulés à proximité d’un poste de la Fnuod surnommé «Point 85». Ce n’est plus le cas aujourd’hui puisque la situation militaire s’est dégradée sur le Golan et que les Casques bleus y sont moins présents depuis l’enlèvement de 45 d’entre eux par le Front al-Nusra entre le 28 août et le 10 septembre.

Rumeurs. Les médias contrôlés par le régime syrien accusent régulièrement les rebelles d’être «aux ordres de l’occupant sioniste». Dans les milieux israéliens du renseignement, des rumeurs selon lesquelles l’Etat hébreu aiderait certains groupes combattants de façon active circulent également depuis le début de la guerre civile syrienne. Des cours de formation et des livraisons d’armes ont parfois été évoqués, mais rien n’a jamais été démontré.

 

Actualisation

To Push Iran Back, Israel Ramps Up Support for Syrian Rebels, 'Arming 7 Different Groups'

With the Assad regime's advances the civil war and America's reduced involvement in the region, Israel has been forced to make significant changes in its policies in the Golan Heights.

The recent tensions along the Israeli-Syrian border have been mainly aerial. But due to developments in the Syrian civil war, real changes are also taking place on the ground in the Golan Heights.

The Assad regime, which has gained the upper hand in the war, is now focusing on aggressively attacking rebel enclaves east of Damascus and in the northern Idlib province. But it is also gradually bolstering its presence in southern Syria, including in the Syrian Golan Heights. And accordingly, Israel is altering its deployment to prepare for what’s to come.

The de-escalation agreement for southern Syria, which the United States, Russia and Jordan signed last November, included a promise to keep Iran and its affiliated Shi’ite militias away from the Israeli border. Israel wanted the Iranians and their agents to be kept almost 60 kilometers from the frontier, east of the Damascus-Daraa road. But it didn’t get its wish; the agreement committed to keep them only 5 kilometers from the front lines between the regime and the rebels.

What this means in practice is that the Iranians are allowed to come to within 20 kilometers of Israel’s border in the central Syrian Golan and within just 5 kilometers in the northern Syrian Golan, which is controlled by Assad’s army. But it’s safe to assume that Hezbollah operatives and even members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards sometimes come right up to the border.

The Assad regime has posts overlooking the Israeli border near Quneitra in the northern Golan, and it’s possible that senior Hezbollah operatives and Iranian representatives visit these posts, which are quite close to Israeli territory.

That isn’t the only important development in recent months. About a month ago, the regime retook the enclave of Beit Jin in the northern Golan from Sunni rebels; it’s located less than 15 kilometers from the Israeli border. Israel Defense Forces officers believe that sooner or later, Assad will make an effort to regain control of the rest of the Syrian Golan, in part because of the symbolic importance of sovereignty over the border with Israel. Members of the security cabinet, who toured the Golan with senior IDF officers almost two weeks ago, think the same.

Analyst Elizabeth Tsurkov, who has followed events in Syria closely for the last several years and has interviewed many rebel militiamen and residents of the Syrian Golan, published a detailed survey of developments in southern Syria in the War on the Rocks blog last week.

Tsurkov said the scope of Israel’s involvement in southern Syria has changed in recent months in response to the regime’s successes in the civil war and Iran’s consolidation in Syria. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warns about the latter on every possible occasion and has repeatedly said Israel will work to thwart it.

According to foreign media reports, over the past few months Israel has begun carrying out airstrikes against Syrian army facilities and targets linked to Iran and its Shi’ite militias, in addition to its longstanding targeting of convoys carrying arms to Hezbollah. Tsurkov also reported on other developments taking place.

Dozens of rebels who spoke with Tsurkov described a significant change in the amount of aid they receive from Israel. Moreover, she said at least seven Sunni rebel organizations in the Syrian Golan are now getting arms and ammunition from Israel, along with money to buy additional armaments.

This change has taken place at a time when America has greatly reduced its involvement in southern Syria. In January, the Trump administration closed the operations center the CIA ran in Amman, the Jordanian capital, which coordinated aid to rebel organizations in southern Syria. As a result, tens of thousands of rebels who received regular economic support from the U.S. have been bereft of this support.

At the same time, Israel has also increased its civilian aid to villages controlled by the rebels, including supplying medicine, food and clothing. Last summer, Israel admitted for the first time that it provides civilian aid to villages in the Syrian Golan, but declined to confirm claims that it also provides military aid.

Tsurkov said these Israeli moves are intended to help block the Assad regime’s advance in the Golan and its conquest of rebel-held villages near the Israeli border. Nevertheless, she wrote, there’s an expectations gap between the two sides. The rebels expect unlimited Israeli support, and some are even hoping for help in their efforts to topple the regime. Israel’s plans are much more modest, and are intended as a holding action.

Relatively moderate Sunni rebels, whom the Israeli defense establishment terms “the locals,” control most of the Syrian-Israeli border, aside from two areas – a regime-controlled area in the northern Golan and a section of the southern Golan controlled by a branch of the Islamic State, Jaysh Khalid ibn al-Walid. According to Tsurkov, Israel is also helping the rebels in their war against the Islamic State.

There have been skirmishes between ISIS and other rebel organizations over the last several years, but these battles have produced no significant change in the forces’ deployment. However, rebels told Tsurkov that Israel has recently begun helping them by launching drone strikes and antitank missiles at Islamic State positions during these battles.

 

 

 

Tag(s) : #Nouvelles du front

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