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June 2, 2018 3:37 pm

Source: Israel, Russia Did Not Agree on Freedom of Action for Jewish State in Syria

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

A Syrian SA-22 battery targeted by the Israeli Air Force in retaliation for missile strikes into Israel by Iran. Photo: Screenshot.

A top Israeli government source denied over the weekend reports in the Arab media that Russia and Israel had reached agreement on freedom of action for the Jewish state in Syria and the status of Iranian forces there.

Last Friday, the newspaper A-Sharq Al-Awsat reported that Iranian forces would withdraw to 20 kilometers from the Syrian-Israeli border. A Russian source stated that Israel had requested a distance of 60-70 kilometers, but this was rejected as unrealistic. It was also claimed that Russia gave Israel a “green light” to act against Iran so long as Syrian army forces were left untouched.

The Israeli source told Hebrew daily Maariv that Netanyahu had made much more extensive demands, saying, “In conversations this week between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Netanyahu emphasized that Iran must leave all of Syria, and Israel will continue to guard its total freedom of action against Iran’s military entrenchment in the entirety of Syria.”

It appears that Netanyahu’s demands were not met. Russia did not agree to a full Iranian withdrawal and only agreed to Israel having “limited” freedom of action in Syria, as opposed to the “total” freedom Netanyahu insisted on.

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Last month, Iran fired a barrage of rockets at the Israeli-held Golan Heights, marking the first direct attack on Israel by the Islamic republic. Israel responded with a massive series of airstrikes that reportedly devastated Iran’s military infrastructure in Syria.

Along with Russia, Iran has been the staunchest ally of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, who has fought to retain his power in a seven-year civil war. Russian and Iranian assistance has helped Assad turn the war in his favor, though the conflict has killed 500,000 Syrians and displaced millions in the process.

Israel has stated many times that it will under no circumstances allow Iran to maintain a permanent military presence in the war-torn country.

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