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Netanyahu: Trump gave me guarantees about freedom of Israeli operations in Syria

During trip to US, Netanyahu hopes to discourage Moscow from giving advanced air-defense system to Syria.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will try to discourage Russia from providing Syria with an S-300 air-defense system during his upcoming visit to the U.S., according to Israeli media reports.

Netanyahu is scheduled to attend the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly, which is currently underway in New York.

On Monday, Israel’s Channel 2 reported that Netanyahu would attempt to persuade U.S. President Donald Trump to offer Russian President Vladimir Putin a “diplomatic initiative” in exchange for the latter refraining from delivering the S-300 system to Syria.

Last week, several Israeli F-16s entered Syrian airspace before striking military targets in Syria’s northwestern Latakia province.

When Syria’s Russian-built S-200 air-defense system responded to the attack, a Russian Il-20 military plane was struck by anti-aircraft fire, killing all 15 servicemen on board.

Days later, Moscow — accusing Israel of using the Russian aircraft as a means of evading Syrian air defenses — announced its decision to provide Damascus with an advanced S-300 air-defense system.

Channel 2 did not provide details as to Netanyahu’s proposed “diplomatic initiative”, but said the prime minister hoped to return from New York “with a guarantee that the Israeli Air Force would have the freedom to operate in Syrian airspace”.

Israel’s Channel 10, meanwhile, quoted an unnamed Israeli official as saying that the situation with Russia constituted a “serious crisis”.

The broadcaster went on to report that Israel’s Security Cabinet had convened on Tuesday — with Netanyahu in attendance — to discuss the row with Moscow.

After the meeting, the cabinet reportedly instructed the Israeli army to continue conducting operations in Syria.

The meeting also reportedly tackled the implications of Russia’s decision to provide Syria with the S-300 system, delivery of which is expected within two weeks.

In a statement, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the system would “significantly” strengthen the Syrian regime’s air-defense capabilities.

According to Russian officials, the S-300 can strike targets up to 250 kilometers away and destroy multiple targets simultaneously.


Israel managed to obtain several guarantees from US President Donald Trump regarding its freedom of operation in Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday.

“I received what I asked for. I came with specific points and I got them,” he told reporters in a briefing following his meeting with Trump earlier during in the day.

He declined to specify what he had asked for. 

Netanyahu’s comments came amid a severe diplomatic crisis with Moscow following the downing of a Russian spy plane last week by Syrian air defenses during an Israeli airstrike.

Russia announced this week that in wake of the incident, which it blames on the Israeli Air Force, it would provide Syria with the advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missile defense system.

The prime minister added that Israel’s deconfliction mechanism with Russia will continue, as will Israel’s determination to act whenever necessary to prevent Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria and its efforts to transfer advance arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Netanyahu said he had discussed the downing of the Syrian plane with Trump.

“We have a goal, and it is as follows: On one hand, to maintain the security coordination with Russia, and second, to allow Israel to defend itself against” the threats emanating from Iran’s effort to establish military bases in Syria.

Still, he maintained, “The greatest threat to Israel does not come from Syria, nor does it come from Lebanon or from what Iran does in Syria, or even from what Iran does inside Iran. Rather, Israel’s number one worry continues to be the Islamic Republic’s ambition to acquire nuclear weapons.

“Iran wants to create nuclear weapons with the declared goal to destroy us,” he said, adding that the issue was discussed at great length with Trump during their meeting.

Also on Wednesday, a senior Israeli official countered media reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin had turned down a meeting with Netanyahu to discuss the incident in Syria, saying instead that Israel had asked for such a meeting, and the Kremlin had neither rejected nor accepted the proposal.

It is likely that the two leaders will meet in the coming weeks to discuss the matter, the official said.


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