JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s prime minister warned Tuesday that he will not tolerate an Iranian military presence in neighboring Syria.
Benjamin Netanyahu said his meeting with visiting Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Tuesday focused mostly on Iran’s efforts to establish a presence next door, where both Tehran and Moscow have provided crucial support to President Bashar Assad’s forces.
“Iran has to understand that Israel will not allow this,” Netanyahu said.
The meeting comes a day after Israel destroyed a Russian-made, anti-aircraft missile launcher that took aim at its planes.
Israel has largely stayed out of the fighting in Syria but has carried out dozens of airstrikes on alleged weapons convoys bound for the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah group.
Israel fears Iran will plant itself on the country’s doorstep by establishing a Shiite “corridor,” with land links from Iran to Lebanon, allowing the movement of fighters and weapons across the region. At the heart of those fears is Hezbollah, which battled Israel to a stalemate in a monthlong war in 2006.
Israel and Russia have established a special mechanism to prevent friction between their air forces in Syria.
Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies that Shoigu and Netanyahu “exchanged opinions on issues related to military and military-technical cooperation, as well as global and regional security.”
He said both men voiced confidence that “the meetings in Israel will give a new impulse to Russia-Israeli cooperation.”