Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged Tuesday to continue combatting Iranian “entrenchment” in Syria and coordinating with Russia after the downing of one of Moscow’s planes.
“We will continue to act to prevent the Iranian military entrenchment in Syria, and continue the security coordination between the Israel Defence Forces and Russian army,” Netanyahu told reporters.
On September 17, Syrian air defences mistakenly shot down a Russian military plane following an Israeli raid in Syria, killing 15 people.
Moscow has blamed the friendly fire incident on Israeli pilots using the larger Russian plane as “cover”.
Israel disputes the Russian findings and says its jets were back in Israeli airspace when the plane was downed.
Russia announced new security measures to protect its military in Syria, including supplying the Syrian army with an S-300 air defence system and jamming radars of nearby warplanes.
Those moves prompted Netanyahu on Monday to warn Putin against “transferring advanced weapons systems into irresponsible hands”.
Speaking at the airport before travelling to New York for the United Nations General Assembly, Netanyahu stressed Israel’s “great success” in preventing Iranian military entrenchment in Syria and the transfer of advanced arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon over the past three years.
“That doesn’t mean that there weren’t exceptions, but altogether it has been very successful,” Netanyahu said.
“We did this with maximal and very successful security coordination with the Russian army.”
Netanyahu also noted he had agreed with Putin to have Israeli and Russian military teams meet soon to enhance the coordination.
Russia and Israel set up a hotline in 2015 to avoid accidental clashes in Syria. Israel is now concerned Russia will seek to limit its actions there.
Israel’s main enemy is Iran and it has pledged to stop it from entrenching militarily in neighbouring Syria.
Iranian-backed Hezbollah is also one of its enemies.
Both Iran and Hezbollah are supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in his country’s civil war alongside Russia.