Senior Delegation of Russian Defense and Intel Officials in Israel to Address Syrian Conflict

Russia and Israel have in recent weeks discussed Israel's demand to push Iranian forces and Shiite militias funded by Tehran out of southern Syria, near the border with Israel

A soldier stands guard near a poster of Syria's President Bashar al Assad and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during the re-opening of the road between Homs and Hama in Rastan, Syria,  June 6, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki
\ OMAR SANADIKI/ REUTERS

Russia and Israel have in recent weeks have discussed Israel's demand to push Iranian forces and Shiite militias funded by Tehran out of southern Syria.

A delegation of senior Russians defense and intelligence officials visited Israel on Wednesday and met with senior officials from Israel's defense ministry and army. The two sides discussed the situation in Russia and terror in the Middle East.

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Last week, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman traveled to Russia and met with his counterpart. Russia and Israel have in recent weeks discussed Israel's demand to push Iranian forces and Shiite militias funded by Tehran out of southern Syria, near the border with Israel.

During Lieberman's meeting with Sergey Shoygu, the possibility that Israel would tacitly accept a return by the regime to the region. In the talks, the possibility that Iran and the militias it supports would be pushed some 70 km to the east of the Damascus-Suwayda road.

>> Israel, Russia discuss pushing Iran back from Syria's border and Assad's return to area | Analysis <<

A United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation military observer uses binoculars near the border with Syria in the Israeli Golan Heights, Israel May 11, 2018
Reuters/Baz Ratner

According to Israeli intelligence, Syria is currently hosting thousands of Iranian advisers and officers from the Revolutionary Guard, alongside some 9,000 Shiite militia forces from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, as well as some 7,000 Hezbollah fighters.  

Over the past week, a deployment of Russian troops along the Lebanese border led to a confrontation with Iran-backed forces, who objected to a unilateral and uncoordinated move by the Russians.

"Perhaps it was to assure the Israelis," a Syrian forces commander told Reuters, adding that the move could not be justified as part of the fight against the Nusra Front or Islamic State because Hezbollah and the Syrian army had defeated them at the Lebanese-Syrian border.

Israel wants Iranian and Iran-backed forces kept away from its border and, more broadly, removed from Syria entirely.

Recent Russian calls for all non-Syrian forces to leave southern Syria have been seen aimed partly at Iran, in addition to U.S. forces based in the Tanf area at the Syrian-Iraqi border.

Reuters contributed background to this report