After being recently accused by Washington of aiding Russia during its Ukraine offensive, China has announced new aid for Assad's Syria, which has set off alarm bells in Israel.
Syria will receive "advanced communications equipment" from the government of China, which was announced and confirmed during a prior July embassy ceremony in Damascus. The official announcement described the aid as aiming "to improve local network infrastructure, especially in those areas hit hard during the Syrian crisis since 2011." This comes after China has long been in talks with the Syrian government over general post-war reconstruction efforts and investment opportunities.
Israeli officials worry that after years of reporting on quiet Chinese military advisory and technical support given to Assad and the Syrian Army, Beijing is poised to grow potential military aid. According to Israeli sources cited in Breaking Defense, "this could be only the tip of the iceberg of Chinese assistance for Syria’s effort to rebuild its armed forces."
Israel has long sought throughout the over decade-long war in Syria to severely degrade the Syrian Arab Republic's military capabilities - seeing it as a long term threat to Israeli security - given also Damascus is a close ally of Tehran.
According to more from the recent Breaking Defense report:
"We have indications that Chinese experts visited in recent months some Syrian military installations that were damaged heavily during the civil war," one source said. "We believe that many [facilities] of the Syrian army will be rebuilt by the Chinese, who have the capability of bringing in thousands of workers to complete the work in the shortest time."
These unnamed Israeli defense sources were backed in their assessment by the former head of Mossad:
"Any type of relations between a world power like China and a country that is one of Israel’s enemies is worrying," said Danny Yatom, a former head of the Israeli Mossad intelligence agency. "The Chinese without any doubt will perform big programs in Syria, and Israel should make sure that this fact will not limit its freedom of action in Syria. Israel will not take any chance of hitting by mistake Chinese people that will be working in Syria as part of the reconstruction work."
Syrians may finally get some needed relief from frequent Israeli bombing raids that have killed scores of Syrians.— Joshua Landis (@joshua_landis) July 28, 2022
China will provide #Syria w advanced communications equipment. Russia will provide S300 anti-aircraft missiles.
China has never joined the West in calling for regime change in Syria. But quite the opposite, Beijing has stressed 'counter-terrorism' in line with the general Syrian-Russian-Iranian perspective on battling foreign jihadists.
The Chinese government has in particular been worried about Chinese Muslim foreign fighters who entered the conflict on the side of Al-Qaeda linked groups. For example, members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) - a Uighur Muslim separatist group that China has battled both at home and abroad - are believed currently to be operating in Idlib. The Turkestan Islamic Party has been known to join forces with global jihadist movements in recent years, particularly in Syria amid the fight to topple Assad.