The Syrian regime has taken up positions on the Golan Heights border with Israel for the first time in seven years.
The government-affiliated Central Military Media outlet said Syria’s military secured the length of the Golan Heights frontier yesterday, after 1,200 ISIS-linked fighters gave up their last pocket of territory in the Yarmouk Basin. It ends a six-week-long campaign by the Syrian regime to retake the southwest corner of the country.
According to Hadashot news, Israel asked Russia to ensure that Syrian forces do not harm civilians in the south as they complete their takeover of the area from rebel groups. Israeli officials reportedly passed on the message to the Kremlin via diplomatic channels.
On Monday, Russia’s Ambassador to Israel, Anatoly Viktorov, told Barak Ravid on Channel 10 News that his country cannot force Iranian militias and military personnel to withdraw from Syria. He said such forces are “playing a very, very important role in our common and joint efforts to eliminate terrorists in Syria. The Iranian presence in Syria… is fully legitimate according to the UN principles and the UN charter”.
Israel has repeatedly has warned it will not tolerate the military presence of Iran and its proxies in Syria and has carried out airstrikes against Iranian targets.
Viktorov emphasised that if the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement between Israel and Syria is fully reinstated there will be no other forces in the area near the Israeli border other than regular Syrian army forces. He did not confirm reports that Moscow offered to keep Iran at a distance of 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the border, though he implied that Russia will not oppose continued Israeli airstrikes on Iranian bases in the country.
He said the message from Russian President Vladimir Putin to Israeli Prime Benjamin Minister Netanyahu during their meeting last week was that the Russian Federation takes into “account the legitimate security concerns of the State of Israel”.