MOSCOW — Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein on Thursday warned Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that Israel would not tolerate continued stray fire from the Syria civil war on the Golan Heights, describing it as a “red line” for the Jewish state.
Over the past week, errant fire from Syria struck the Golan Heights on at least four occasions, leading the IDF to target Syrian army installations, including in a strike on Saturday that reportedly killed two Syrian soldiers. Israel holds the Assad regime — which is supported by Russia and Iran in the conflict — responsible for all incidents originating from the war-torn country.
In a meeting in Moscow’s Foreign Ministry, Edelstein said “fire, or what is being called ‘spillover fire,’ into Israeli territory is a red line that we will under no circumstances allow to be crossed, and we will not tolerate an Iranian presence on the border.”
Israel fears the Islamic Republic, along with its proxies, will entrench its forces on its northern border, giving it greater access to attack the Jewish state.
Edelstein did not say what other steps Israel would be willing to take to enforce its red line. Jerusalem has been careful to stay out of the Syrian fighting, beyond retaliatory strikes and reported airstrikes on alleged weapons transfers to terror group Hezbollah.
Lavrov expressed “understanding” of Israel’s security concerns, Edelstein said after the meeting, though “not all gaps were closed” during the powwow.
Edelstein also appealed to Lavrov to help Israel retrieve the bodies of two IDF soldiers killed in the 2014 Gaza war being held by the Hamas terror group in the coastal enclave. He left a packet of information with Lavrov on soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul — as well as IDF soldier Guy Hever, who went missing in 1997 on the Golan Heights.
The Knesset speaker expressed concern over heightened tensions between Washington and Moscow, which he suggested could affect Israel.
“The good relations between Moscow and Washington are essential for the peace of the world and certainly for the State of Israel,” he said.
Welcoming Edelstein ahead of the meeting, Lavrov noted the “constant contact” between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel coordinates with Russia to carry out pinpoint strikes on Hezbollah arms convoys in Syria.
Both Lavrov and Edelstein acknowledged warming ties between Moscow and Jerusalem on economic affairs, education, and parliamentary cooperation.
The Knesset speaker was in Moscow for a three-day official visit at the invitation of Federation Council chairwoman Valentina Matviyenko.
A former prisoner in Siberia for teaching Hebrew, Edelstein on Wednesday became the first Israeli to address the upper chamber of the Russian parliament.
In his address to Russian lawmakers, the Knesset speaker outlined security threats facing Israel, from Hezbollah in the north to Hamas in the south.
“Behind Hezbollah and Hamas stands Iran,” which aspires for regional expansion and “spreads its ideologies of hatred of mankind, which threaten all the nations of the world,” he said.