Air strike in Syria (archive)
Air strike in Syria (archive)Reuters

Israel's publicizing of recent air strikes against Iran in Syria, in a break from its usual policy of ambiguity, is a political move related to the country's upcoming national elections, Russian ambassador to Israel Anatoly Viktorov told i24news.

"The Israeli ministry of defense now makes immediate comments on any strikes at a very, very high level -- and in our mind, this is very much connected to the election campaign," Viktorov said.

"Whether it’s harmful, or how it contributes to the safety of our Israel, it is not our place to comment," the ambassador added.

Viktorov’s interview with i24news followed this week’s Israeli air strikes on Iranian targets in Damascus, which came in retaliation for the launching of a surface-to-surface rocket by Iranian Quds toward the northern Golan Heights.

In the past, Israel has not publicly commented on its air strikes in Syria, but last week, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu broke with his country’s long-standing policy of not publicly accepting responsibility for airstrikes in Syria, and acknowledged that Israel’s air force had attacked Iranian weapons depots at the Damascus International Airport.

On Monday, after the latest Israeli air strike, Netanyahu warned Iran and Syria that Israel will not tolerate “acts of aggression”, nor will it accept Iran’s continued presence on Syrian soil.

Iran, which is a strong supporter of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, is a major military ally for Russia in Syria, and Viktorov has previously said that demands for their expulsion are "not realistic."

Viktorov called Israel's activity in Syria "intolerable and inadmissible" and confirmed to i24news that Moscow has become increasingly frustrated with Israel's intervention in its war-torn northern neighbor.

Pressed on the issue, however, Viktorov could not say definitively what consequences Moscow's growing frustration might carry for Israel and would only say, "We will continue persuading [Israel] to change their mode of operation.”

The interview was published before Russia’s Foreign Ministry urged Israel to cease its air strikes in Syria, calling the strikes “arbitrary.”

The ambassador also told i24news that Russia does not want an escalation between Iran and Israel and would like to see the two countries engage in bilateral talks.

"Russia would like to reduce the tensions between Iran and Israel, and would rather this take place in direct negotiations between the two countries," Viktorov said. The main threat to the region, he added, is "the existence of international terrorism, not the relations between Iran and Israel."