UN raises alarm over rise in contacts between Israel troops, Syria militants
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has expressed concerns about a spike in contacts between Israeli armed forces and Syria militants in recent months.
In a report released recently, Guterres warned that the growing interactions between the two sides could lead to escalation and cause harm to members of the UN Disengagement Observer Force deployed to the Golan Heights.
According to the report, UN observers listed 16 meetings between the Israel forces and the Syria militants in the border area, including on Mount Hermon, in proximity to UN outposts in Syria’s Quneitra Province and the Golan Heights, from March 2 to May 16.
“Relative to the previous reporting period, there has been a significant increase in interaction” between Israeli soldiers and individuals from the Syrian side of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, “occurring on four occasions in February, three in March, eight in April and on one occasion in May,” the report said.
In its previous report released in March, the UN listed at least 17 interactions between the two sides between November 18, 2016, and March 1, 2017.
The figures show a significant increase when compared with only two such meetings recorded between August 30 and November 16, 2016.
The report said people likely affiliated with the militant groups, some of them armed, arrived at an Israeli outpost accompanied by mules and were greeted by the soldiers.
“In some instances, personnel and supplies were observed to have been transferred in both directions. On all occasions, the unknown individuals and mules returned to the Bravo (Syrian) side,” it added.
The UN chief said such interactions have “the potential to lead to clashes between armed elements and the Syrian Arab Armed Forces.”
“All military activities in the area of separation conducted by any actor pose a risk to the ceasefire and to the local civilian population, in addition to the United Nations personnel on the ground,” he wrote.
Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal reported that Israel has been providing Takfiri terrorists in Syria’s Golan Heights with a steady flow of funds and medical supplies.
Citing militant commanders and people familiar with Israel’s thinking, the paper said Israel’s “secret engagement” in the war aims to install a buffer zone on the Syrian border with elements friendly to Tel Aviv.
The Tel Aviv regime regularly attacks positions held by pro-Damascus forces in Syria, claiming that the attacks are retaliatory.
The Syrian army has on several occasions confiscated Israeli-made arms and military equipment from terrorists fighting the government forces. There are also reports that Israel has been providing medical treatment to the extremists wounded in Syria.
In April, Israel’s former minister of military affairs Moshe Ya’alon admitted to a tacit alliance with Daesh, saying the terrorist group had “immediately apologized” to Tel Aviv after firing “once” into Israel.