ISIS once said “sorry” to Israel after attacking Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers, a former Israeli Defense Minister has said. Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon, who served as Israel’s Defense Minister from 2013 to May, 2016, was apparently referring to a brief exchange of fire that occurred last November between IDF troops and an ISIS-linked group, the Shuhada al-Yarmouk cell of the Khalid ibn al-Walid Army, operating in the Syrian Golan Heights, according to the Times of Israel.
The incident, according to analysts, was the first time that IDF troops had a direct clash with ISIS militants.
The Times of Israel reported that former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said that the neutrality of Israel in the Syrian war caused even Islamic State fighters to “apologize” to Israel after they unintentionally attacked IDF soldiers of the Golani Brigade conducting an “ambush operation” near the Syrian border.
While answering questions about the issue of Israel’s “neutrality” policy in the Syrian war, in an interview with Eli Levi, a Channel 10 news correspondent, at an event in Afula in the Northern District of Israel, Ya’alon said that the ISIS-affiliated fighters apologized for attacking the IDF unit.
“There was one case recently where Daesh (ISIS) opened fire and apologized.”
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A gun battle had ensued after the ISIS-affiliated militants opened fired on an IDF military patrol unit in the Golan Heights, an IDF military spokesperson confirmed at the time, according to the Independent. The IDF forces returned fire and later launched attacks against the Khalid ibn al-Walid militants, with airstrikes and tank fire that killed four of them.
The Khalid ibn al-Walid militants are a jihadist group that pledged allegiance to ISIS in May of 2016. They launched surprise attacks on moderate rebel groups in February this year, capturing a town and several villages along the Syrian border.
Although Israel has maintained a strict non-interventionist policy in the Syrian war raging close to its borders, Ya’alon admitted during the interview that the IDF carried out several strikes against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s forces in retaliation for Syrian fire hitting the Israeli Golan Heights.
The IDF also engaged military targets in Syria, claiming that it was trying to stop the transfer of weapons from Iranian sources to Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.
The IDF had, in the past, denied or refused to comment on allegations that its jets conducted airstrikes against convoys allegedly transporting Iranian weapons to Hezbollah. But, according to the Al Jazeera, Tel Aviv eventually admitted in March this year that it carried out airstrikes against military targets in Syria, ostensibly to stop the transfer of weapons to Hezbollah.
However, Tel Aviv has vehemently denied allegations by the government of Bashar al-Assad that Israel’s attacks on military targets in Syria were designed to aid ISIS and other rebel groups.
“You can assume that these terrorists are fighting for Israel. If they aren’t part of the regular Israeli army, they’re fighting for Israel. Israel has common goals with Turkey, the United States, France, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other countries,” Assad once said, according to YNet news.
“Israel is working on helping these terrorists… It attacks in one form or another to provide them with assistance, and to stop the Syrian army’s momentum…”
Some analysts claim that through his statement, Ya’alon unintentionally admitted that Israel maintains communication channels with the Islamic State-affiliated group operating in the Golan Heights.
“There was one case recently where Daesh opened fire and apologized,” Ya’alon said, according to the Times of Israel.
When the Times of Israel asked Ya’alon to further clarify his statement, he refused to respond. A spokesperson for the former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, who later served as Defense Minister, also refused to explain the channels through which ISIS allegedly communicated its apology to Israel.
The IDF also declined to comment on the matter, according to the Times of Israel.
But analysts pointed out that Israeli law makes it illegal to communicate with terrorist groups, including ISIS. Thus, a situation where a former defense minister makes a statement suggesting that the IDF might have maintained communication channels with at least one ISIS group raises eyebrows, according to some observers.
But other analysts insisted that ISIS might have apologized only out of anxiety to ensure that Israel maintained its neutrality in the war.
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