MUNICH - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Friday with Antonio Guterres, the head of the UN, and told him that the Golan Heights would remain in Israel's hands forever. Meeting at the Munich Security Conference, Netanyahu told the UN secretary general that Israel would not allow Iran to establish a military presence in Syria.
Reiterating past comments, Netanyahu added that Israel would act against any Iranian attempt to build bases in Syria.
Netanyahu also thanked Guterres for holding an informal UN Security Council session on Israelis held by Hamas together with the remains of Israeli soldiers killed during fighting in Gaza and said that there must be additional action on this issue.
Netanyahu has made similar comments regarding the Golan in the past. Last year, Netanyahu asked U.S. President Donald Trump to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, territory Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War. Israel made a similar request to the Obama administration in 2015, but it was rejected, diplomats said at the time.
Most of the world considers the Golan, a high plateau between northeastern Israel and southwestern Syria, to be occupied by Israel, which annexed the territory in 1981 in a move not recognized internationally.
At the beginning of this month, Netanyahu paid a rare visit to the occupied Golan Heights, peering across the nearby border into Syria and warning Israel’s enemies not to “test” its resolve.
Netanyahu has been cautioning against any attempt by Iran to deepen its military foothold in Syria or construct missile factories in neighboring Lebanon.
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Last week anti-aircraft fire downed an Israeli warplane returning from a bombing raid on Iran-backed positions in Syria in what was the most serious confrontations yet between Israel and Iranian-backed forces based across the border.
The F-16, one of at least eight Israeli planes dispatched in response to what Israel said was an Iranian drone’s incursion into its airspace earlier in the day, was hit by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile and crashed in northern Israel, an Israeli official told Reuters.
Both pilots ejected and were injured, one critically.
Israel then launched a second and more intensive air raid, hitting what it said were 12 Iranian and Syrian targets in Syria, including Syrian air defense systems.
Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah group said the downing of the plane marked the “start of a new strategic phase” that would limit Israel’s ability to enter Syrian airspace.
Iran’s involvement in Syria in support of President Bashar Assad in a nearly 7-year-old civil war - including the deployment of Iran-backed forces near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights - has alarmed Israel, which has said it would counter any threat.
Reuters contributed background to this report