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Iranian Presence in Syria Is Legitimate, Russia Says Amid Israeli Concerns

14 November 2017

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu says he has made clear to the U.S. and Russian Federation that Tel Aviv will continue to "act in Syria".

Israeli media quoted a United States official as saying that all non-Syrian fighters, including Iranian sponsored forces, would be expelled from the area near Israel's border and eventually from all of Syria.

"I have clarified to our friends in Washington and our friends in Moscow that we will operate in Syria, including southern Syria, in accordance with our understanding and in accordance with our security needs", Netanyahu said, describing Israel's security policy as "the right combination of firmness and responsibility". It comes after Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin reaffirmed joint efforts to support a ceasefire in the Syrian region bordering Israel and Jordan.

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In an earlier interview, Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz told The Associated Press that an global agreement on Syria would be a positive development, but stressed that Israel is not a party to this deal and would defend its interests. The deal does not include a timetable for the evacuation of Iran's forces practically on Israel's borders.

Netanyahu's remarks follow that of the country's regional cooperation minister Tzachi Hanegbi, who expressed similar sentiment a day earlier.

Israel has long complained about the involvement of archenemy Iran, and Iranian proxy Hezbollah, in the Syria war.

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U.S. officials are in Israel to discuss security concerns regarding the new ceasefire in Syria.

But according to an unnamed Israeli official, under the deal, militias associated with Iran would be allowed to maintain positions as close as five to seven kilometers (3.1-4.3 miles) to the border in some areas, Reuters reported Monday. An Israeli official, briefed on the situation, said the move is aimed at keeping rival factions away from each other, but would also keep Iranian-linked forces away from the Israeli side of the disputed Golan Heights.

Israel has carried out several strikes in Syria, even in Damascus, under security pretext.

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Iranian Presence in Syria Is Legitimate, Russia Says Amid Israeli Concerns