U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 5, 2018 \ KEVIN LAMARQUE/ REUTERS

Netanyahu Had 'Tense' Call With Trump Over U.S. Plan to Leave Syria, White House Officials Say

The conversation revolved around Netanyahu's concerns that the U.S. will withdraw from Syria and allow Israel's enemies to gain a further foothold in the neighboring country, say White House officials

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a "tense" phone call with U.S. President Donald Trump, according to two White House officials.

The conversation revolved around Netanyahu's concerns that the U.S. will withdraw from Syria and allow Israel's enemies, Iran and its affiliate militias, to gain a further foothold in the neighboring country, said the officials.

A White House statement released following the call said Netanyahu and Trump spoke about "recent developments in the Middle East," and that the president "reiterated the commitment of the United States to Israel’s security and the two leaders agreed to continue their close coordination on countering Iran’s malign influence and destabilizing activities."

Last week, Trump caught the U.S. State Department off guard when he proclaimed the U.S. was "coming out of Syria, like, very soon. Let the other people take care of it now." 

Contradicting Trump, the State Department said it was unaware of any plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.

Assad, who is supported by Russia and by Shi’ite militias backed by Iran, has said he wants to take back every inch of Syria.

The U.S.-led coalition was set up in 2014 to battle Islamic State fighters in both Syria and Iraq, who were largely defeated last year. Some 2,000 U.S. forces remain on the ground in Syria, allied to the Kurdish-led SDF alliance, which holds the largest swathe of territory still outside the control of the government.

The Syrian civil war, now entering its eighth year, has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven more than 11 million from their homes, while drawing in regional countries and global powers supporting client factions on the ground.

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