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Russia warns Israel to stop air strikes in Syria

Russia issued a public warning to Israel to stop attacking targets in Syria.

The Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, told a press conference in Moscow that Russia had not changed its position and its stance was based on international law. Zakharova said: “The practice of arbitrary strikes on the territory of a sovereign state – in this case, we are talking about Syria – should be ruled out.” She added: “Escalating a mood of hostility in the region does not align with the long-term interests of any country in the Middle East, and that includes Israel, of course. Syria, which has suffered greatly in years of violent conflict, must not be allowed to become an arena for settling geopolitical scores.”

The warning followed a series of Israeli airstrikes in Syria on Sunday and Monday which killed at least 12 members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, six Syrian soldiers and militiamen and three foreign citizens, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Kuwaiti newspaper al-Jarida reported that Russia notified the Iranians 30 minutes in advance of the recent airstrikes, allowing them to evacuate the area. The report also said that on Friday, the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, Major General Qassem Soleimani ,was less than an hours drive from Israel’s border with Syria. Soleimani is believed to have visited eastern al-Gariyah in Deraa province, less than 40 kilometres from the Golan Heights. This would violate a previous US-Russian-Israeli agreement. According to the report, Soleimani’s visit is what triggered Israel’s rare daytime strikes on Iranian targets on Sunday.

Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the report and said: “Instead of interfering in the elections, Soleimani would do well to check the state of the Iranian bases that he is trying to establish in Syria. Our policy is clear and it will not change: We are determined to prevent Iran from militarily entrenching itself in Syria against the State of Israel.”