Russian, Israeli military officials meet over Syria

IDF officials meet with Russian military leaders to plan future of 'de-confliction' cooperation between two countries to prevent accidents.


Russian officer takes picture of Tu-95 bomber
Russian officer takes picture of Tu-95 bomber

Israeli military officials concluded a series of talks with their Russian counterparts on Thursday aimed at improving coordination in war-torn Syria, the army said.

The two sides discussed "promoting and improving the mechanism to prevent friction between the two militaries in the northern arena and the (Israeli military's) activities against Iranian entrenchment and the arming of Hezbollah in Syria," Israel's army said in a statement.

Russia has been directly engaged in the Syrian war since 2015 in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, which is also backed by Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah -- long-time enemies of Israel.

Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria in recent years against Iranian and Hezbollah targets, and the Jewish state and Russia have set up a "de-confliction" hotline aimed at avoiding accidental clashes.

That mechanism was stretched when a Russian military aircraft was mistakenly shot down by Syrian air defenses after an Israeli raid in September.

Fifteen Russian soldiers were killed and the Russian army accused Israeli pilots of using Moscow's plane as cover to evade Syrian gunfire.

Israel said its forces were far from the incident at the time of the shooting, and accused the Syrians of reckless fire.

Russia has since announced new security measures to protect its interests in Syria, including beefing up the regime's anti-aircraft defenses.

But Israel's military said Thursday's meetings were "conducted in a good and professional atmosphere" and that the two sides had agreed to continue working together.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in early January held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time since Washington's shock announcement it was withdrawing its forces from Syria.