A top Iranian general on Sunday denied reports that Tehran is considering withdrawing from southern Syria, saying that "the U.S. and Israel are making desperate attempts to change the situation at the border. They need to know that it's not going to happen."
Brig. Gen. Masoud Jazayeri, deputy chief of staff of Iran's armed forces, said that "the Zionist regime's greatest fear is the presence of Muslim fighters near the border. It has come to pass."
Jazayeri further told the Tasnim news agency that "Iran and Syria enjoy deep ties that will not be inflicted by anyone's propaganda tools. Unlike the U.S. army and extremists in the region, the Iranian advisers are in Syria at the request of the government and the people. We are waiting for the day that Syria and the countries of the region witness an era without bothersome foreigners causing trouble."
Reports emerged in recent days claiming that Israel and Russia had struck an agreement to remove Iranian forces from southern Syria and to limit their presence in other areas controlled by Bashar Assad's regime.
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According to the reports, including one in the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed in a talk with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel may attack targets in Syria that endanger its security, as long as they are not facilities belonging to the Assad regime.
An Israeli official denied the report and said that Netanyahu told Putin and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Iran must fully exit Syria. According to the official, Netanyahu emphasized that Israel intends to maintain full freedom of operation in Syria in accordance with its security needs.