JERUSALEM, Israel – Iranian forces and those of its proxy, Hezbollah, are preparing to leave southern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
The report followed a visit by Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman to Moscow for talks about Syria with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu.
“Israel appreciates Russia’s understanding of our security needs, especially with regard to the situation on our northern border,” Lieberman said following his meeting.
“It is important to continue the dialogue and to keep an open line between the IDF and the Russian army,” Lieberman added.
“It is necessary to discuss everything about the situation on the border, in the southern de-escalation zone, where we have an agreement with Jordan and the US,” Shoigu reportedly told Lieberman.
Before Lieberman’s departure, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel wouldn’t tolerate any Iranian presence inside Syria.
“We will continue to act against [Tehran’s] intention to establish a military presence in Syria across from us, not just across from the Golan Heights but anywhere in Syria,” he said.
Over the last several months, Israel was credited with bombing numerous Iranian military sites inside Syria, increasing those strikes after Iran sent an armed drone into Israeli territory.
Ahead of Lieberman’s visit Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said all non-Syrian forces should withdraw from the southern border area of Syria. That would be along Israel and Jordan’s borders with Syria.
Both Russia and Iran are major allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Reports say Israel would like to see a deal in which initially Iran would be pushed back 40-50 miles from the border and eventually compelled to leave Syria altogether.
Meanwhile, Assad denied there were any Iranian troops in his country.
“We do not have Iranian troops. We never had,” Assad was quoted as telling Russia Today.
“We have Iranian officers who work with the Syrian army as help, but they do not have troops,” he said.
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