Israel’s deputy foreign minister has admitted aiding Kurdish militants in Syria amid a Turkish incursion into the Arab country.
On October 9, the Turkish military launched a cross-border operation in northeastern Syria in an attempt to clear the Syrian border areas of Kurdish militants of the so-called People’s Protection Units (YPG), whom Ankara views as terrorists linked to the autonomy-seeking Kurdish militants at home.
The incursion began after the US announced it was withdrawing its forces from northeastern Syria, effectively abandoning its longtime Kurdish allies there and giving NATO partner Turkey the go-ahead for the operation. The withdrawal of the 1,000 US troops was deemed by Kurds as a betrayal by Washington.
On October 10, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed solidarity with and offered assistance to the “gallant Kurdish people,” saying they faced possible “ethnic cleansing” by Turkey and its allied militants.
Addressing parliament on Wednesday, Tzipi Hotovely admitted Israel is assisting Syrian Kurds.
“Israel has received many requests for assistance, mainly in the diplomatic and humanitarian realm,” she said, adding “We identify with the deep distress of the Kurds, and we are assisting them through a range of channels.”
Hotovely gave no details on Israel’s assistance, but said during “dialogue with the Americans…, we state our truth regarding the Kurds…and we are proud of our taking a stand alongside the Kurdish people.”
“Israel indeed has a salient interest in preserving the strength of the Kurds and the additional minorities in the north Syria area as moderate and pro-Western elements,” the Israeli official said.
Israel has long been backing militants operating against the Syrian government.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Friday accused France and Israel of seeking to establish “a terrorist state” within Syria where they are reportedly assisting Kurdish separatists in the Arab country’s north.
Ankara views the US-backed YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984.
The YPG constitutes the backbone of the SDF, an anti-Damascus alliance of predominantly Kurdish militants who maintains close ties with the United States as well.