Mideast Daily News

Netanyahu: Israel Will Act In Syria As Necessary

By Charles Bybelezer | The Media Line

November 14, 2017

Israeli army officers study a map as they look towards Syria from the Mount Bental observation post in the Golan Heights. (Photo: MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reasserted Jerusalem’s right to act militarily in Syria “in accordance with [the country’s security] needs,” a day after news broke of a ceasefire deal that will reportedly allow Iranian-backed forces to operate within close proximity of the northern border. The premier revealed that he conveyed to both the United States and Russia—which brokered the truce in conjunction with Jordan—that the Israeli army would continue to carry out strikes within Syrian and Lebanese air space to prevent the establishment of a permanent Iranian presence in Syria as well as the transfer of advanced weaponry to Hizbullah. Israel has long pressed Moscow, the leading player in the conflict since militarily intervening on behalf of the Assad regime in September 2015, to create a buffer zone of up to 50 km in the Syrian Golan Heights in which Shiite proxies backed by Tehran would be banned. However, according to Israeli media, the new ceasefire will allow such fighters to entrench themselves in areas located only five kilometers from Israel’s frontier. While a joint American-Russian statement announcing the deal called for “the reduction and ultimate elimination of foreign forces and foreign fighters from the [border region],” Jerusalem fears that such will only apply to radical Sunni rebels battling regime forces, as, in principle, Assad does not consider Iranian-backed troops as “foreign” given their role in effectively saving the Syrian leader. Netanyahu’s position puts him at odds with Russian President Vladimir Putin, with whom Israel has coordinated closely to prevent any unwanted confrontations in Syria’s skies. As regards Washington, officials from the National Security Council reportedly landed in Israel on Tuesday to further discuss the Jewish state’s concerns.

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