JERUSALEM, Israel – Following Wednesday's meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin on the outskirts of Moscow, Israeli reports said Russia was working to remove Iranian forces from Israel's border with Syria. It's the subject the Israeli leader came to discuss.
"It is not new for you that our focus is on Syria and Iran," Netanyahu told Putin at the start of their meeting.
Middle East expert and author Joel Rosenberg explained the strategy.
Middle East expert and author Joel Rosenberg, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
"Netanyahu has been working very hard to try to keep open lines of communication. Why? Because Russian military forces are operating just over the northern mountains of Israel in Syria and Israel doesn't have a military conflict with Russia and it does not want a military conflict with Russia," Rosenberg told CBN News.
Israel has its red lines inside Syria.
Israeli Knesset member Robert Ilatov said Israel won't tolerate Iranian or Hezbollah forces near its border.
Knesset member Robert Ilatov, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
"Israel cannot allow [an] Iranian presence inside Syria. And, of course, we will in no way allow the Iranian bases or Hezbollah bases on the Israeli border. That's why the dialogue with the Russians is very important. And I really hope that also during these [upcoming] talks between Trump and Putin [that] will be addressed and will be solved."
The northern border continues to present a challenge to Israel. On Wednesday, Israeli forces shot down a drone that violated its airspace. The IDF retaliated by hitting three targets inside Syria, and a top Iranian general threatened Israel's destruction from just across the border.
Israeli troops patrol near the northern border with Syria, Photo, IDF Spokesman's Office
"Today an international Islamic army has been formed in Syria and the voices of the Muslims are heard near the Golan," said Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami. "Orders are awaited so that the custom of Allah vis-à-vis the eradication of the evil regime [Israel] will land and the life of this regime will be ended for good. The life of the Zionist regime was never in danger as it is now."
In the meantime, the Syrian army, aided by Russian air support, is seizing strategic territory from rebel forces in southern Syria.
Syria from Israel's northern border, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
A top Israeli intelligence group reports that Iranian troops are also in the fight, often wearing Syrian uniforms to disguise themselves.
All those boots on the ground threaten Israel's northern border – a key reason why Prime Minister Netanyahu will insist Iran leave Syria, either on its own or with help from the Israel Defense Forces.