lsrael secretly armed and funded at least 12 rebel groups in southern Syria that helped prevent Iran-backed fighters and militants of the Islamic State from taking up positions near the Israeli border in recent years, according to more than two dozen commanders and rank-and-file members of these groups.
The military transfers, which ended in July of this year, included assault rifles, machine guns, mortar launchers and transport vehicles. Israeli security agencies delivered the weapons through three gates connecting the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to Syria—the same crossings Israel used to deliver humanitarian aid to residents of southern Syria suffering from years of civil war.
Israel also provided salaries to rebel fighters, paying each one about $75 a month, and supplied additional money the groups used to buy arms on the Syrian black market, according to the rebels and local journalists.
The payments, along with the service Israel was getting in return, created an expectation among the rebels that Israel would intercede if troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad tried to advance on southern Syria.
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