An IDF soldier stands atop a tank near Alonei Habashan on the Golan Heights, close to the ceasefire line between Israel and Syria.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A top Syria expert told The Jerusalem Post that a report published in a Lebanese newspaper close to Hezbollah claiming that Israel arms Syrian rebels was “really not serious.”
Al-Akhbar newspaper said it obtained documents based on intelligence information hacked from Israeli defense officials and the computer and phone of Mendi Safadi, an Israeli Druse who has served as chief of staff for Deputy Regional Cooperation Minister Ayoub Kara.
According to Thursday’s report, Safadi, who has traveled in the region to meet with Syrian opposition activists, had his phone tapped for months, revealing that Lebanese and Syrian figures cooperated with him.
The report said Safadi, who it identified as being close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, sought to recruit Lebanese and Syrian agents who would deliver weapons to Syrian opposition groups.
Safadi also allegedly sought intelligence on Hezbollah from his sources. Contact between Israel and a member of Islamic State was also revealed, the report claimed.
Prof. Eyal Zisser, an expert on Syria from the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University, told the Post that this report is “just not serious.”
“Many Israeli Druse are trying to help their co-religionists in Syria, but this is not Israeli official policy,” he said.
The Syrian Druse are in distress, but still stand with the regime in Damascus, said Zisser, adding that they “have not yet turned to Israel.”Al-Akhbar
newspaper is biased because of its connection to Hezbollah, he added.
Speaking with the Post, Safadi said that the parts of the report regarding arms and contact with Islamic State are lies.
However, he said, the rest of the report is mostly accurate as the information presented is nothing secret, but rather things that he has said in the media or published on his Facebook account.
For example, the two pictures of Safadi used in the article, one with Netanyahu and another with him draped in an Israeli flag, were taken from his Facebook account.
The fact that he is in touch with senior Lebanese and Syrian officials is well known, he added.
Safadi admitted that his mobile phone and computer had been hacked around six months ago and that now he has a stronger defense program installed. But he does not know who was behind it.
“I do a lot of political work, including for the Syrian opposition,” he said, adding that he has “told parliaments all over the world about what Hezbollah and [Syrian President Bashar] Assad are doing.”