Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian military chief Valery Gerasimov made a surprise visit to Israel on Monday for talks on Iranian military entrenchment in Syria.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who announced the meeting at the start of his weekly cabinet meeting, said he would meet later Monday with the high-level delegation from Moscow, which was dispatched to the Jewish state at the request of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“The delegation is arriving at the request of President Putin, [made] in a conversation we had days ago,” said the prime minister at the cabinet meeting. “I will present the Russian delegation with the same stance I presented President Putin with during my last visit to Moscow: Israel insists the  disengagement agreement with Syria be honored, as it was honored for decades before the Syrian civil war, and Israel will continue to act against any attempt by Iran or its proxies to establish military bases in Syria.”
The visit had not been announced ahead of time by Moscow or Jerusalem.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said Monday that Lavrov would be departing Moscow on “urgent political-diplomatic business,” without elaborating on the destination, according to local state-run media.
The visit comes amid sky-high tensions in the border region. On Sunday evening, Israeli planes reportedly bombed a military site used by Iranians to manufacture missiles in Syria, hours after Netanyahu vowed Israel would continue to act against Tehran in the region.
On Monday, Israel for the first time deployed its David Sling anti-missile system after detecting missiles from fighting inside Syria near the Golan border.
The area has seen intense fighting in recent days as Syrian and Russian forces have carried out a large bombing campaign to retake areas held by rebel groups, including along the Israeli border.
According to an Israeli news report last week, Israel and Russia are holding talks regarding the imminent return of Syrian regime forces to the border region on the Golan Heights, with a view to reestablishing demarcation lines drawn up in 1974.
In addition to talks between the two countries’ security establishments, working groups in Israel and Russia have been studying issues such as the no-man’s land, demilitarized zones and the deployment of Israeli and Syrian forces on both sides of the border, the Kan public broadcaster reported Wednesday.
Citing a Russian diplomat, the report said that both Israel and Syria had agreed to return to the 1974 Agreement on Disengagement drawn up in the wake of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and that it will be implemented when Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime has fully wrestled control of the border region from rebel forces.
The diplomat also reportedly insisted that there were no Iranian forces in southwestern Syria, a subject that has been a key concern for Israel.