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Israel said worried US sanctions on Russia could affect Syria operations

Amid fears Russia may invade Ukraine, report says close ties between Jerusalem, Washington could jeopardize coordination with Moscow vis-a-vis efforts to counter Iran

An F-35 fighter jet takes off during a surprise exercise, 'Galilee Rose,' in February 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
An F-35 fighter jet takes off during a surprise exercise, 'Galilee Rose,' in February 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli officials are worried that the imposition of US sanctions against Russia in response to a possible invasion of Ukraine could harm Israel’s security interests in Syria, according to a report Monday.

Citing unnamed security officials, the Walla news site said Israel’s close ties with the US could jeopardize its coordination with Moscow vis-a-vis its operations in Syria.

The officials said such cooperation is vital in preventing Iran and its proxies from further entrenching themselves in Syria.

“US sanctions against Russia put Israel in a very embarrassing position,” an official was quoted as saying. “The United States is a long-standing stable ally, but Israel needs Russia given the circumstances in the Middle East.”

Asked on the prospect of Israel joining US sanctions on Russia in an interview with Channel 12 news on Sunday, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid replied that Jerusalem “will consider what course to take.”

The IDF has conducted hundreds of airstrikes in Syria over the past decade in response to efforts by Iran to establish a front against Israel there and to transfer weapons through the country to its proxies in the region, particularly the Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist militia.

Israel has acknowledged that it targets the bases of Iranian forces and Iran-allied terror groups, particularly along the Golan border, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which has fighters deployed in southern Syria. It says it also attacks arms shipments believed to be bound for those groups.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is considered one of few allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and Russia is seen as using its presence in the war-torn country to gain a foothold in the Middle East.

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad (left) speaks with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, before their meeting in Tehran, on Monday, February 25, 2019. (SANA via AP)

Earlier this month, Russia expressed “deep concern” over Israel’s ongoing strikes in Syrian territory, saying they could escalate tensions in the area and endanger commercial flights.

“Israel’s continuing strikes against targets inside Syria cause deep concern,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Thursday, according to the TASS news agency. “They are a crude violation of Syria’s sovereignty and may trigger a sharp escalation of tensions. Also, such actions pose serious risks to international passenger flights.”

She added that Moscow “systematically and resolutely opposes attempts to turn Syria into a scene of armed confrontation between third countries.”

“Once again we are insistently calling upon the Israeli side to refrain from such use of force,” she said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, listens to Syrian President Bashar Assad during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on September 13, 2021. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Russia has also recently announced it was carrying out joint military jet patrols with the Syrian air force of the airspace along Syria’s borders, including in the Golan Heights area, prompting speculation that Israel would be more hesitant to strike Syria.

Following the patrol, Ynet reported that Israeli military officials were holding talks with Russian army officers to calm tensions.

According to the report, Israeli officials were struggling to understand why Russia, which announced that such joint patrols were expected to be a regular occurrence moving forward, had apparently changed its policy toward Israel.

The report claimed, without citing a source, that Israel may limit its air campaign in Syria as a result of Russia’s move, even after discussions end.

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