Visit by security team follows Jerusalem’s announcement it will not be bound by US-Russia agreement to allow Iranian fighters near northern frontier
Officials from the US National Security Council have reportedly flown in for talks with Israeli security heads slated to begin Tuesday, primarily over the US-Russia agreement regarding Syria and Iran’s growing threat to the region, US officials confirmed.
On Monday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel will not be bound by the deal, which would somewhat distance Iranian proxies from the border with Israel.
“I have clarified to our friends in Washington and our friends in Moscow that we will operate in Syria, including southern Syria, in accordance with our understanding and in accordance with our security needs,” Netanyahu said, describing Israel’s security policy as “the right combination of firmness and responsibility.”
The agreement, announced in a joint US-Russian statement Saturday, affirms a call for “the reduction, and ultimate elimination” of foreign fighters from southern Syria.
According to reports, the deal applies to Iranian proxies fighting on behalf of Assad’s regime, which would be required to leave the border area and eventually Syria.
But according to an unnamed Israeli official, under the deal, militias associated with Iran would be allowed to maintain positions as close as five to seven kilometers (3.1-4.3 miles) to the border in some areas, Reuters reported Monday.
Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz told reporters Sunday that the agreement “does not meet Israel’s unequivocal demand that there will not be developments that bring the forces of Hezbollah or Iran to the Israel-Syria border in the north.”
In addition to the Syria agreement, the officials are likely to discuss Iran’s alleged construction of a military base less than 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Israel’s Golan border.
On Friday, the BBC, citing a Western security official, reported that Iran was setting up a permanent base on a site used by the Syrian army near el-Kiswah, 14 kilometers (8 miles) south of Damascus, and 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the Israeli border.
Over the weekend IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot made an undeclared trip to Brussels to speak with the top US general in Europe.
Eisenkot traveled with two brigadier generals, Erez Maisel, the head of the Israel Defense Forces’ Foreign Relations Division, and Ram Yavne, the head of the army’s Strategic Division.
In Belgium, the senior officers met with Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, who serves as both the head of the US military’s European Command and as supreme allied commander of NATO.