UPDATE 1400 GMT: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has firmly rejected any restriction on Israeli action, including airstrikes inside Syria.
“Israel has been very successful in the last three years in preventing Iran’s military buildup in Syria as well as its attempts to deliver lethal weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon,” Netanyahu said, before leaving for New York for the UN General Assembly.
His ministers put out a parallel message, “The Security Cabinet has instructed the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] to continue to take action against attempts by Iran to establish a military presence in Syria while continuing the security coordination with Russia.”
Netanyahu said the two sides would resolve issues around their “de-confliction” agreement: “I reached an agreement with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin that work groups from the IDF and Russian army will meet soon for this purpose.”
Russia has renewed pressure on Israel over their cooperation in Syria, with Moscow declaring that it will supply S-300 anti-air defenses to Damascus and block the radar and satellite signals of any planes moving on the country from the Mediterranean.
The catalyst for the Russian maneuvers is the September 17 accidental downing of a Russian surveillance plane, killing 15 personnel, by an Assad regime air defense missile.
The Russian Defense Ministry has blamed the Israel Defense Forces, saying Israeli F-16s fighters used the Russian Il-20 as cover, putting it in harm’s way. President Vladimir Putin stepped back after a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week; however, the Ministry and Russian Embassy in Israel have repeated their criticism of the Israel Defense Forces as irresponsible and even guilty of a crime.
On Monday, Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu said the long-delayed delivery of S-300 anti-air defenses to the Assad regime will finally be completed:
In 2013 on a request from the Israeli side we suspended the delivery to Assad regime of the S-300 system, which was ready to be sent with Assad’s crews trained to use it. The situation has changed, and not due to our fault.
Delivery of Russia’s S-300 to Syria will also stop Western coalition from carrying out uncontrolled attacks on Syrian territory.
But the Kremlin later added an assurance to Israel abot limits on the S-300’s use:
It should be obvious to everyone that Russia’s actions aimed at ensuring security for its troops are necessary. This is why in this case, Russia is guided solely by these interests, these actions are not directed against third countries, they are meant to protect our own troops.
Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov emphasized that co-operation over Syria will not be broken, “Our relations [with Israel] are far wider. This is an important issue, of course. But it is also our right and the right of sovereign Syria.”
Netanyahu drove home Israeli concerns in a call to Putin, saying the supply of the S-300s to “irresponsible players” will increase dangers in the region.
The two leaders reportedly agreed on the need to maintain Israeli-Russian arrangements for “deconfliction” in their operations in Syria.
UK Asylum for Almost 100 White Helmets and Family Members
The UK has granted asylum to 29 White Helmets civil defence volunteers and up to 70 family members.
The first family has been resettled in the UK, with the rest due to move early next month.
In July, 98 White Helmets and 324 of relatives were evacuated from southern Syria through Israel to Jordan, as a pro-Assad offensive recaptured opposition territory and put the rescuers at risk of detention or worse.