Today’s Top Stories
1. Is Israel developing a buffer zone in Syria by secretly supplying rebels near the border with food, medical assistance and money? That’s what the Wall St. Journal (click via Twitter) reports. It’s remarkable that Syrian rebels now speak on the record about their relationship with Israel.
The Israeli army is in regular communication with rebel groups and its assistance includes undisclosed payments to commanders that help pay salaries of fighters and buy ammunition and weapons, according to interviews with about half a dozen Syrian fighters. Israel has established a military unit that oversees the support in Syria—a country that it has been in a state of war with for decades—and set aside a specific budget for the aid, said one person familiar with the Israeli operation . . .
“Israel stood by our side in a heroic way,” said Moatasem al-Golani, spokesman for the rebel group Fursan al-Joulan, or Knights of the Golan. “We wouldn’t have survived without Israel’s assistance.”
Israel’s aim is to keep Iran-backed fighters allied to the Syrian regime, such as the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, away from the 45-mile stretch of border on the divided Golan Heights, the three people said.
2. Israel began reducing electricity to Gaza, in response to a request from the Palestinian Authority.
3. Escalating the Syrian civil war, Iran fired missiles at Islamic State positions in eastern Syria. The Iranians said the missile strike was retaliation for a pair of terror attacks in Tehran earlier this month, which Islamic State claimed responsibility for. It also came on the heels of the US downing a Syrian war plane “after it dropped bombs near local ground forces supported by the United States.”