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Israel Pushes Hard To Force Iran Out Of Syria

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, Sunday, May 27, 2018.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel is prepared to hit Iran anywhere in Syria.

“We will continue to act against [Tehran’s] intention to establish a military presence in Syria across from us, not just across from the Golan Heights but anywhere in Syria,” Jerusalem Post quoted Netanyahu as saying on Wednesday, May 30.

According to the Post, Netanyahu made the comment hours before Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman was scheduled to fly to Moscow to hold talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoygu.

Russia has already signaled its agreement with Israeli demands to force Iran-backed elements out of the border zone. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that only Syrian government troops should have a presence on Syria's southern border, which is close to Jordan and Israel.

Rebels hold stretches of that area and intensive Israeli airstrikes in Syria this month were prompted by what Israel said was Iranian rocket fire from the area into the Golan Heights.

Lavrov, however, noted that "Of course, the withdrawal of all non-Syrian forces must be carried out on a mutual basis, this should be a two-way street," Reuters quoted him as saying on Monday.

Meanwhile, Lieberman said in a tweet that Israeli forces were focusing on preventing the establishment of military presence in Syria by “Iran and its proxies.”

Israeli officials have said repeatedly during the past year that they cannot tolerate continued Iranian military presence and influence in Syria.

Netanyahu is slated to hold talks with UK, French and German leaders about Iran’s ambitions in the Middle East and the expansion of its regional influence.

“Next week I am going to Germany, France and Britain,” he said Wednesday in Tel Aviv. “I will meet with Chancellor [Angela] Merkel, President [Emmanuel] Macron and Prime Minister [Theresa] May... I will present them with the latest strategic developments in our region, which are connected to the efforts to halt Iranian aggression in Syria and elsewhere,” Jerusalem Post quoted him as saying.

The three countries, the EU-3, have been working to keep Iran in the nuclear deal with the West, also called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), following the United States’ withdrawal from the deal two weeks ago.

Israel has always opposed the nuclear deal with Iran, maintaining that it strengthens Iran’s nuclear program rather than weakening it.

Netanyahu has been persuading European leaders to follow the US’s lead and pull out of JCPOA.

Meanwhile, in another report published on Wednesday, the Jerusalem Post said that Israel is pointing a finger at Iran for engineering “the most serious escalation on its southern front in four years.”
“Less than a month after Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) fired 32 rockets toward Israel’s northern Golan Heights, the Iranian-funded Islamic Jihad along with Hamas fired some 180 Iranian-made 120-mm. mortar shells and 107-mm. rockets toward communities in southern Israel,” the Post wrote.

It is possible that the sudden escalation from Gaza is part of the Iranian-Israeli tit-for tat show of force. While Israel is ramping up the pressure to force Iran out of Syria, Tehran tries to retaliate in any way it can.

There have been no Iranian reactions to Israeli statements as of midday May 31.