Syrian regime forces regained control of the whole border area with Israel in the Golan Heights for the first time in seven years on Monday, sealing its military victory in the strategic southern territories, after ISIS-linked militants gave up their last pocket of territory in the area, The Jerusalem Post reported.
According to state media and opposition-linked war monitoring groups, the ISIS-affiliated organization, known as the Khaled bin Al-Waleed Army, was driven out of the last major villages it still held near the Golan Heights, in an area called the Yarmouk Basin.
The military victory in the area means that forces loyal to the Assad regime now fully control the province of Daraa, where the rebellion broke out in 2011. The regime, backed by Russian airstrikes, launched a campaign in mid-June to regain control of the southern and south-western parts of the country bordering Israel and Jordan, in the provinces of Daraa and Quneitra.
Israel has maintained a close focus on the six-week campaign and repeatedly said it will not tolerate a permanent Iranian presence in the country. The Islamic Republic of Iran has sent military personnel and equipment to help Assad in the civil war and has built a significant infrastructure in the war-torn state.
On Monday, Russia’s ambassador to Israel said that his country cannot compel Iranian forces to leave Syria. “They are playing a very, very important role in our common and joint effort to eliminate terrorists in Syria. That is why, for this period of time, we see as non-realistic any demands to expel any foreign troops from the entirety of the Syrian Arab Republic,” he said.
“We can talk with our Iranian partners very frankly and openly, trying to persuade them to do or not to do something,” he said. But asked whether Russia can force Iran out, he answered: “We cannot.”
The ambassador stressed, however, that Russia could equally do nothing to prevent Israel from launching airstrikes against Iranian installments in Syria. “We cannot dictate to Israel how to proceed … It is not up to Russia to give Israel freedom to do anything, or to prohibit Israel to do anything.”
The Israeli government and military have insisted time and again that Israel will take all necessary steps to counter Iran’s aggressive behavior in the region.
[The Watchman/ YouTube]