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Putin warns Israel to be careful on further strikes in Syria
Vladimir Putin warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Saturday that Israel must avoid provoking further tensions in Syria.
His demand followed an afternoon of Israeli airstrikes on targets in Syria prompted by the loss of an Israeli plane to Syrian anti-aircraft fire, the first time an Israeli plane has been shot down since 1982.
Putin obviously has a vested interest in making excuses for Iran, but the Russians can’t expect Israel to watch Iran entrench its position in Syria, funnel guns to Hezbollah, and harass Israel from across the border with impunity. If Russia wants to escalate the situation, that’s on them. In that case, it might not be long before hostilities commence.
Putin to Israel: Be careful
A phone call between Putin and Netanyahu Saturday brought Israel and Iran back from the brink of war following an afternoon of Israeli airstrikes on Syrian and Iranian targets set off by the downing of an Israeli plane.
Israel had already carried out two bombing raids when Putin and Netanyahu agreed to end the hostilities. Putin warned Netanyahu to avoid taking any action that could lead to “a new round of dangerous consequences for the region.”
In effect, Putin laid the blame on Israel for defending its own interests — despite Russia’s partner, Iran, starting the conflict.
While initially urging “all parties” to exercise caution earlier Saturday, Russia clearly sided with Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah in calling for Israel to respect Syrian sovereignty.
“We urge all parties involved to exercise restraint and to avoid any actions that could lead to an even greater complication of the situation. We consider it necessary to unconditionally respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and other countries of the region. It is absolutely unacceptable to create threats to the lives and security of Russian servicemen who are in Syria at the invitation of its legitimate government to assist in the fight against terrorists,” Russia’s foreign ministry said Saturday afternoon.
Netanyahu told Putin that Israel would defend itself from aggression and would fight Iranian entrenchment “in Syria or anywhere else.”
The Russians also said that military advisers stationed in Syria had been endangered by Israeli bombardments over the weekend.
“The creation of any threat to the lives and safety of Russian military servicemen currently in Syria on the invitation of its lawful government to help fight terrorists is absolutely unacceptable,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Israel has a right to retaliate
Putin is blaming Israel for defending its sovereignty against unprovoked incursions.
The chain of events began Saturday when an Iranian drone sailed into Israeli airspace. The drone was shot down by an Israeli helicopter, prompting an Israeli raid on the Syrian airbase that launched the drone. Syrian anti-aircraft fire then brought down an Israeli plane on its return flight, the first time an Israeli plane was brought down by enemy fire since the 1982 Lebanon War.
Given Russia’s support of Iran, Hezbollah and the Syrian regime, it doesn’t make sense for Putin to blame his own allies. But he can’t expect Israel to sit back and do nothing when harassed.
Israel made it clear that it wouldn’t accept unprovoked hostilities with the weekend’s round of airstrikes, which killed six.
“Yesterday we dealt severe blows to the Iranian and Syrian forces,” Netanyahu said Sunday. “We made it unequivocally clear to everyone that our rules of action have not changed one bit. We will continue to strike at every attempt to strike at us. This has been our policy and it will remain our policy.”
Netanyahu warned on Saturday that Israel would not tolerate Iran’s growing presence in Syria, given Iran’s hostility to Israel and its support of Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Lebanon terror group that vows to destroy Israel. Israel has expressed worries that an entrenched position in Syria will enable Iran to more easily funnel weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon and harass Israel across the border.
This weekend’s stand-off confirms what Israel has long suspected about Iran’s involvement in Syria.
Instead of blaming Israel, Russia should use its influence with the Assad regime, and Iran, to prevent further provocations.
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