Outrage in Damascus after Israeli reporters enter Syria
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A report by two Israeli journalists working undercover in the rebel-held Idlib region of Syria has been picked up by the Damascus regime and its Lebanese supporters Hezbollah as proof that the insurgents are siding with the Israeli “enemy”.
Two Israeli journalists have returned from an undercover reporting mission to Syria in news that has been picked up by the Damascus regime and its Lebanon-based Hezbollah supporters to mount an anti-rebel propaganda attack.
Syria, in the grips of a deadly civil war, is not a safe place for journalists – 17 have been killed there in 2012, according to several NGOs.
The country is doubly dangerous for Israelis. Syria is still officially at war with the Hebrew state and Israelis are unable to visit most of their neighbouring Arab countries.
This did not deter Itay Angel and Amir Tivon, two reporters for Israel's Channel 2, from entering Syria via Turkey.
Their report, broadcast Monday on the channel’s investigative programme “Uvda” [Hebrew for “Fact”], covered the rebel-held Idlib region of Syria.
Even in rebel-held areas, the revelation that they were Israeli reporters would have caused them serious problems.
Itay Angel told FRANCE 24 that none of the people he interviewed or worked with while in Syria had any idea that he was Israeli.
But that did not stop the journalists from sounding out the rebels on their attitude towards their southern neighbour.
“We are only against Bashar al-Assad and his regime,” said one rebel commander. “If Israel’s [former Prime Minister and General] Ariel Sharon comes to me and says he is against Bashar, he has my confidence.”
The regime in Damascus was quick to pick up on the comments about Sharon – who is considered a war criminal in most Arab countries – to strike a media blow at a rebel movement that is steadily gaining ground.
The report was relayed on Syrian state TV, as well as on the Lebanese al-Manar TV network, the mouthpiece of Hezbollah, whose leader Hassan Nasrallah is Israel’s sworn enemy.
“Once again, Israeli journalists are invited into Syria by the rebels who once again have demonstrated they have nothing against Israel,” al-Manar wrote on its website, accusing the rebels of being well aware of the journalists' nationality.