Tuesday 17 July 2018

Netanyahu meets Putin amid new round of strikes in Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, take part in the Immortal Regiment march in Moscow yesterday. Photo: Alexey Druzhinin/Getty
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, take part in the Immortal Regiment march in Moscow yesterday. Photo: Alexey Druzhinin/Getty

Tia Goldenberg and Zeina Karam

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travelled to Moscow yesterday to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and discuss military co-ordination amid new strikes in Syria blamed on Israel.

Together with Mr Putin, Mr Netanyahu toured a parade celebrating the anniversary of the World War II victory over the Nazis and then met the Russian president at the Kremlin for consultations.

Mr Netanyahu said he was eager to discuss ways of "solving crises and removing threats in a thoughtful and responsible manner".

Syrian state media said Israel struck a military outpost on Tuesday near the capital of Damascus. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the missiles targeted depots and rocket launchers that likely belonged to Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard in Kisweh, killing at least 15 people, eight of them Iranians.

Tensions between Israel and Iran are high over Iran's efforts to expand its military presence in Syria, where it is a key ally of President Bashar al-Assad. Repeated airstrikes attributed to Israel have killed Iranian fighters and prompted threats of reprisal from Tehran.

President Donald Trump's announcement on Tuesday that the US would withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran has triggered uncertainty and threatened to spark more unrest in the Middle East.

"The meetings between us are always important and this one is especially so," Mr Netanyahu said ahead of his departure. "In light of what is currently happening in Syria, it is necessary to ensure the continued co-ordination" between the two militaries. Mr Netanyahu made no mention of the overnight strikes.

The Israeli and Russian militaries have been in contact throughout much of Russia's intervention in Syria, where Moscow has waged an air campaign in support of Assad's forces since 2015. Russia also considers Iran a strategic ally.

Israel views Iran as its archenemy, citing Iran's calls for Israel's destruction, support for militant groups across the region and growing military activity in neighbouring Syria.

Israel has warned that it will not allow Iran to establish a permanent military presence in Syria.

Israel, which almost never confirms or denies airstrikes in Syria, did not comment on Tuesday's attack. Such strikes have become more frequent recently and Iran has vowed to retaliate to recent Israeli strikes in Syria targeting Iranian outposts.

Irish Independent

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