Israel still intends to fight back against Hezbollah threats and Iran’s presence in Syria, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, despite lingering tensions between Jerusalem and Moscow over the downing of a Russian plane in Syria last September. He also said that military delegations from both countries will meet later this week to discuss coordination in Syria.
“I told President Putin that we are continuing our policy: We will not allow Iran to establish a military presence in Syria. We will continue to take action against the precision weapons in Lebanon, and we will complete the operation to foil the tunnel threat,” Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday.
The multiple threats from Hezbollah, including the Iranian-backed terrorist group’s growing rocket arsenal and terror tunnels, as well as the risk of a permanent Iranian entrenchment near Israel’s northern border in Syria, have been countered by Israel for years.
However, an Israeli air raid on a Syrian weapons facility near the city of Latakia caused a crisis last September, when a Russian plane was shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft fire responding to the Israeli attack. Russia accused Israel of indirectly causing the downing of the Russian spy jet, a charge Jerusalem denies.
In an effort to de-escalate tensions, Netanyahu said he and Putin had “agreed that the IDF and Russian military coordination delegations will meet soon, hopefully in the coming days, apparently in Moscow.” Netanyahu added: “President Putin and I will meet later on. This is in continuation of the very important talk we had in Paris, in order to ensure the continuation of the orderly coordination between the Russian military and the IDF, which has been maintained for several years now.”
The Kremlin, meanwhile, stressed in a follow-up statement “the importance of ensuring stability in the region,” and said Russia and Israel must improve their military cooperation in Syria.
The Times of Israel reported Tuesday that a senior Israeli military delegation will travel to Moscow this week to heal rifts between the two countries. The move came hours after Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad said he and Russia were both convinced that Israel had acted deliberately during the September incident involving the Russian aircraft.
The Israeli military said the delegation will discuss with Russian counterparts the IDF’s newly launched ‘Operation Northern Shield’, meant to expose and neutralize Hezbollah cross-border attack tunnels, as well as “other operational issues.”
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