Liberman says Israel ‘won’t allow’ new Iranian front on Golan Heights
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Liberman says Israel ‘won’t allow’ new Iranian front on Golan Heights

In Moscow, defense minister also says Jewish state will not tolerate attempts by Iran to transfer weapons to Hezbollah

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman attends the sixth Moscow Conference on International Security in Moscow on April 26, 2017. (AFP Photo/Natalia Kolesnikova)
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman attends the sixth Moscow Conference on International Security in Moscow on April 26, 2017. (AFP Photo/Natalia Kolesnikova)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told Russian ministers during a meeting in Moscow on Wednesday that Israel “won’t allow concentrations of Iranian and Hezbollah forces on the Golan Heights.”

Speaking with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Liberman expressed Israel’s concern that Iran is using Syrian territory to smuggle arms to the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah — something Israel has said it cannot abide.

During a visit to Moscow in March, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also warned against Iranian attempts to establish a terrorist beachhead against Israel on the Golan Heights, telling Israeli reporters that he expressed to Russian President Vladimir Putin Israel’s “strong opposition to Iran’s entrenchment in Syria.”

Since its military intervention in Syria in September 2015, Russia has established a military alliance with both Iran and Hezbollah, all of whom the survival of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad is vital to their interests.

Despite Russia’s alliance with both Iran and Hezbollah, Israel and Russia have maintained a level of security coordination in order to prevent conflicts between their two militaries in Syria, where Moscow is fighting against opponents of the Assad regime and Israel occasionally carries out airstrikes against Hezbollah weapons convoys.

Illustrative: Then-Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (left) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (right) arrive for a joint press conference following their meeting in Moscow on January 26, 2015. (photo credit: AFP/Vasily Maximov)
Illustrative: Then-foreign minister Avigdor Liberman (left) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov arrive for a joint press conference following their meeting in Moscow on January 26, 2015. (AFP/Vasily Maximov)

Liberman noted on Wednesday that there have been “nine meetings between IDF representatives and representatives from the Russian Army so far,” and said the coordination mechanism has “proven itself effective at preventing unnecessary conflict.”

In addition to meeting with Russian officials, Liberman also attended the sixth annual Moscow Conference on International Security during his visit.

Liberman also discussed the growing humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, where fuel shortages threaten to leave the enclave without electricity.

“Hamas collects taxes from Gaza Strip residents, but instead of using it for the welfare of the residents and improving the living conditions in the Strip, it invests them in manufacturing rockets and digging tunnels,” he said.

“The problem is not between Israel and the Palestinians, but rather an internal conflict among Palestinians, inside Fatah, between Hamas and Fatah and really, between Ramallah and Gaza,” he added.

A Palestinian street vendor waits for customers during a power cut in Gaza City, on April 20, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)
A Palestinian street vendor waits for customers during a power cut in Gaza City, on April 20, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)

The coastal enclave is on track to completely run out of fuel for its power plant due to a spat over taxes between Hamas, which rules the Strip, and the Mahmoud Abbas-led Palestinian Authority.

On Tuesday, a senior IDF officer said that the impending power outage in the Gaza Strip could lead to a conflict between Hamas and Israel.

“The story there is Hamas’s dilemma — to where do you put the money? In military channels or for civilian needs in the Strip?” the officer told journalists, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“There’s a chance this could lead Hamas to a clash with Israel,” he added.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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