Israel warns Assad it will take action to counter Iran

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Israel passed a message to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad through an intermediary that it would take military action in Syria if Iran is allowed to establish a permanent military presence in Syria.

Ehud Yaari, Middle East analyst for Hadashot News (formerly Channel 2), reported the story and revealed Iranian plans to build “a naval base, possibly for submarines, an air base and arms factories for precision weapons” and that if Assad “invites Iranian forces to establish themselves in Syria via an agreement of any kind,” Israel will change its current policy towards Syria.

Israel has not intervened in the Syrian conflict but has taken action to prevent the transfer of sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah and to prevent military infrastructure being established on its border.

The Hadashot report follows an article in the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Jarida, which claimed last weekend that Assad gave Russian President Vladimir Putin a message for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Syria would agree to a demilitarised zone of up to 40km from the border in the Golan Heights if Israel does not work to remove al-Assad’s from power.

One source told the paper that Netanyahu told Putin that he was ready to discuss al-Assad’s demands with the Israeli security institutions, but stressed the necessity of removing Hezbollah and Iran from Syria.

Netanyahu reiterated Israel’s opposition to Iranian military entrenchment in Syria on 21 November, the day before Putin met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hasan Rouhani in Sochi to discuss the future of Syria.

On 10 November, BBC News reported that Iran is establishing a permanent military base inside Syria. The Iranian military is said to have established a compound at a site used by the Syrian army outside El-Kiswah, eight miles south of Damascus (and 31 miles from the Golan Heights). Israel vowed to prevent this, with Netanyahu telling the BBC News: “You know, the more we’re prepared to stop it, the less likely we’ll have to resort to much greater things. There is a principle I very much adhere to, which is to nip bad things in the bud.”

Israel currently operates several field hospitals near the Syrian border as part of “Operation Good Neighbour”. According to the Israel Defence Forces IDF they have provided aid to 200,000 Syrian citizens living in the Hauran region of southwestern Syria.