Netanyahu criticises Syrian ceasefire deal

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters that Israel is totally opposed to the terms of the US-Russia brokered ceasefire agreement in southern Syria.

Speaking at a press conference during his visit to France yesterday, Netanyahu said that the ceasefire agreement would perpetuate the Iranian presence in Syria.

According to diplomatic sources there is great concern that Iran plans to build its own military infrastructure in Syria, including the establishment of an air base for Iranian aircraft and a naval base.

The ceasefire, which was agreed at the G20 summit in Hamburg, took effect last week and forbids foreign militias supported by Iran from operating in strategic areas in Syria adjacent to the Israeli and Jordanian border. The ceasefire also establishes safe zones inside Syria.

Ceasefire talks were held in Jordan between Russian and US representatives. Israel was present as an observer and was able to share its concern that any ceasefire must not allow Iran to consolidate its presence in Syria.

Senior Israeli officials told Haaretz, however, that when Jerusalem obtained the text of the deal, it discovered that the US and Russia had ignored Israel’s positions almost completely.

An Israeli official said: “The agreement as it is now is very bad. It doesn’t take account of any of Israel’s security interests and it creates a disturbing reality in southern Syria. The agreement doesn’t include a single explicit word about Iran, Hezbollah or the Shi’ite militias in Syria.”

Ahead of the ceasefire announcement, Netanyahu spoke by telephone with both US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian President Vladimir Putin to reiterate Israel’s positions on the agreement.

Southern Syria has witnessed some of the most intense fighting in the civil war between President Bashar al-Assad’s army, the Syrian rebels and ISIS. Over the past few years, mortars have been fired into the Israeli side of the Golan Heights as part of the fighting taking place in Syria.