Free Syrian Army fighters
Free Syrian Army fightersReuters

Israel supplied weapons to Syrian rebels in the Golan Heights, outgoing Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot told a British newspaper.

It marks the first time that an Israeli official has acknowledged that Israel gave the rebels anything other than humanitarian aid. The comments were reported in an exit interview with Eisenkot, who stepped down Tuesday, in The Sunday Times.

He told the newspaper that Israel provided Syrian rebel groups with light weapons “for self-defense.”

His comments were published on the same day that Prime Minister Netanyahu acknowledged that Israel has struck targets in Syria.

“We carried out thousands of attacks without taking responsibility and without asking for credit” in recent years, Eisenkot also told the Sunday Times.

Foreign Policy magazine reported in September, citing rebel commanders and foot soldiers, that Israel had secretly armed and funded at least 12 rebel groups in southern Syria that helped prevent Iran-backed fighters and Iranian terrorists from taking positions near the Israeli border in recent years.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment for the article.