Russia has agreed to Israeli demands that a buffer zone in Syria in which Iranian forces and Hezbollah fighters are not allowed to operate should be widened.
Israel reportedly asked Russia and the United States to install a 60 kilometre buffer zone in any ceasefire agreement for the Syria conflict. Israelis wants the border on the Golan Heights to be off-limits to all Iranian backed forces.
Tel Aviv’s worst fear in Syria is a solution to the crisis that would allow for a permanent Iranian and Hezbollah presence in the country. The issue was on the agenda when Netanyahu visited Russia in August.
It’s also tops the list of issues being discussed with the Russian Defence Minister, Sergei Shoigu, who arrived in Israel on Monday on a two-day visit to discuss Russia-Israel military cooperation, as well as regional security problems, including the Syrian conflict.
The rare meeting came on the heels of the brief exchange of fire between Israel and Syria on Monday morning. Just hours before his arrival in Tel Aviv, Israeli forces bombed an anti-aircraft battery belonging to Russia’s ally, Syria.
Netanyahu is reported to have raised the issue of the buffer zone with Shoigu, but the Russian minister rejected Israel’s request for a 40 kilometre buffer zone but was willing to expand a 10-15 kilometre zone which would be off-limits to Iranian forces.
Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman also met privately with Shoigu at the Israeli army’s military headquarters on Monday, saying that Israel “will not allow Iran and Hezbollah to turn Syria into a forward outpost against Israel”.