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Israel concerned US sanctions on Russia could harm interests in Syria, report says

An image grab shows smoke and fire billowing during a Israeli air strike on the outskirts of Damascus [AFP/Getty Images]
An image grab shows smoke and fire billowing during a Israeli air strike on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria on 19 November 2020 [AFP/Getty Images]

Israeli officials are reportedly worried that US sanctions on Russia over its possible invasion of Ukraine could harm Tel Aviv's security interests in neighbouring Syria.

According to a report by the Israeli news site, Walla!, anonymous Israeli officials expressed to it their concerns that, due to Israel's close ties with the US, any sanctions that the latter imposes on Russia will affect the former's ability to properly coordinate with Moscow in Syria to negotiate security issues.

One of the officials admitted that "US sanctions against Russia put Israel in a very embarrassing position. The United States is a long-standing stable ally, but Israel needs Russia, given the circumstances in the Middle East." Cooperation with Moscow, the officials outlined, is necessary and vital to prevent Iran and its proxy militant groups in the region from further gaining ground in Syria.

Throughout much of the ongoing Syrian conflict, Israel has repeatedly launched airstrikes on Syria against Iranian or Iran-backed targets, in an effort to ensure a land corridor for arms and militants does not fully develop in the country and wider region.

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While Russia – which has backed the Syrian regime of Bashar Al-Assad throughout the war – has never taken direct action against the Israeli strikes, it has, at times, condemned them. The latest incidence took place earlier this month, when Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, stated that the "continuing strikes against targets inside Syria cause deep concern" and "are a crude violation of Syria's sovereignty and may trigger a sharp escalation of tensions."

Tel Aviv and Moscow have, so far, largely managed to coordinate with each other in regards to Syria and reach an understanding. If US sanctions on Russia over the situation in Ukraine do impact that coordination, as the officials warn of, then Israel's security interests in Syria could be harmed.

Washington's sanctions on Moscow were imposed this week, after the White House and its allies in Europe condemned the Kremlin's recognition of separatist areas in eastern Ukraine as the beginning of an "invasion of Ukraine".

As a key US ally and a strong supporter of the Ukrainian government, many have speculated whether Israel would also impose sanctions on Russia or announce support for US counter-measures. In response, Foreign Minister, Yair Lapid, said in an interview with Israel's Channel 12 news on Sunday that Tel Aviv "will consider what course to take."

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