“Iran must withdraw from Syria or Israel will ‘defend itself’”

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Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that Israel is prepared to intervene in Syria to counteract the Iranian influence in the conflict. Moscow, which views Iran as key to resolving the crisis, said it will note Israeli interests.

When the two leaders met in Sochi on Wednesday, Netanyahu told Putin that any peace deal in Syria must entail the full withdrawal of any Iranian forces from the area.

“Iran is already well on its way to controlling Iraq, Yemen and to a large extent is already in practice in control of Lebanon,” Reuters quoted Netanyahu as saying. “We cannot forget for a single minute that Iran threatens every day to annihilate Israel.”

“Israel opposes Iran’s continued entrenchment in Syria. We will be sure to defend ourselves with all means against this and any threat.”

Iran supports Syrian President Bashar Assad in the civil war that has been gripping the country for six years. Israel considers the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah to be little more than a proxy of Tehran, and fears a Syrian government victory will further amplify Iranian influence at its borders and give Tehran access to the Mediterranean.

Israel publicly considers Iran an even bigger threat to its security than Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

“It is not an exaggeration to think that within a certain period of time, the Islamic State will lose its territorial footholds in Syria,”said Netanyahu, as quoted by Haaretz. “There will be a much better prospect for cutting the current civil war short and preventing a future war if Iran is not in Syria.”

“I made it clear to Putin that Iran’s establishing itself in Syria will not aid stability in the region, and I told him that we want to prevent a future war and therefore it is important to warn in advance.”

Israeli officials may be particularly concerned about an Iranian presence near the Golan Heights, a disputed territory between Israel and Syria, part of which is under Israeli occupation. In July, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) opened fire on Syrian positions in response to two stray shells landing on the Israeli-claimed side. rt.com

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