The weapons, which included machineguns, bombs, automatic rifles and explosive devices, were displayed on Syrian TV on June 15. The incident came two days after Israeli authorities took an official stance against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and endorsed armed gangs operating in Syria.
Over the past 15 months, Israeli officials were indirect in their approach, expressing their opposition to Assad through moves such as alleging the existence of non-conventional weapons in Syria. But the seizure of Israeli weapons by Syrian forces confirms the speculations that Tel Aviv was actively supporting the violence in the country.
The revelation is not surprising, though, given the stern anti-Israeli stance of Bashar Assad as well as that of his father and predecessor Hafez Assad. In 1973, Hafez fought Israeli forces and managed to regain control of parts of the Golan Heights. The territory was occupied by Israeli forces in 1967 and annexed in 1981. Hafez’s successor, Bashar, has been seeking to regain control of the rest of the territory, refusing to make any concessions to Tel Aviv.
In 2007, the Israeli air force invaded Syria and destroyed the al-Kibar site. Israel alleged that the site was harboring a nuclear reactor; however, subsequent inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) refuted the allegation.
Israel is also known to operate intelligence operations in Syria. In 2011, Syria arrested an Israeli spy, who had facilitated the assassination of Lebanese Hezbollah’s top military commander Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus in 2008.
Back in February, in an interview that appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy hinted that Israel was involved in the Syrian unrest, albeit indirectly.
When asked about the possibility of an Israeli strike on Syria, Halevy said, “I don’t want to preempt Israeli operations or planning.” He added, however, that “Israel shouldn’t be directly involved for obvious reasons.”
In hindsight, it seems that he was referring to Israel’s logistic support and weapons supply to armed gangs wreaking havoc in Syria.
The appointment of Abdelbasset Sida as the head of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) is also an interesting factor. Sida is a Syrian of Kurdish descent, who has lived in Sweden for the past 17 years.
Israel has historically had good relations with certain groups of Kurds in the region. For instance Mossad’s operation in Iraq’s Qandil Mountains in the areas controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government is no secret. The militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which frequently launches attacks on southern Turkey, is also linked with the Israeli intelligence agency.
Sida is believed to have sympathy for Israel. Therefore, it is no coincidence that Tel Aviv chose to publicly announce its official stance on the conflict, only after his appointment as the head of the Syrian National Council.
In announcing its stance, Tel Aviv claimed that it was backing the Syrian people. Addressing the Syrian nation, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor said, “We extend our hand to you.” This is while the Syrian people have repeatedly expressed their support for President Assad.
In fact, a recent poll conducted by the independent Qatar Foundation found that 55% of Syrians strongly support Assad and do not want him to resign. That is eight percent better than President Barack Obama’s approval rating in the United States, which stands at 47%.
The conduct of Israeli officials is part of a plot to divide the Syrian people, wage a civil war and weaken Damascus — one of Tel Aviv’s staunchest enemies. While the Israeli efforts have so far managed to extend the violence for over 15 months, they have failed to plunge Syria into a civil war.