JERUSALEM, Israel – Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Israel would not allow Iran to make Syria its "forward operating base." Israel, he said, has "absolute freedom of action" when it comes to security.
Lieberman was responding to Russian Foreign Minister Segei Lavrov's statement on the alleged "legitimacy" of Iran's growing entrenchment in Syria.
Lavrov insists his country never talked about Iranian forces leaving Syria or preventing Shiite militias near the border with Israel.
"Neither Iran nor pro-Iranian units were discussed," Lavrov told Russia's TASS news agency. "If we talk about pro-Iranian forces, some may be tempted to call the entire Syrian army pro-Iranian. Should it surrender in that case? I believe this is what they call 'wishful thinking.'"
The agreement allows Iranian and Hezbollah troops to be as close as 4.8 kilometers (about 3 miles) from the border with Israel, a situation that severely compromises the security of the Jewish state.
In related news, U.S. security officials are in Israel this week meeting with their Israeli counterparts to talk, among other things, about the growing danger on the northern border.
"This week the Israeli NSC [National Security Council] hosted an American interagency delegation led by U.S. NSC staff. Israel and the U.S. have an exceptionally strong collaborative relationship and routinely coordinate on a wide range of issues," a statement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office read.
"During this visit, Israeli and U.S. officials discussed high priority security matters, including developments in Syria and the opportunity President Trump has created to address the flaws of the JCPOA [Iranian nuclear deal] and ensure that Iran never gets nuclear weapons," the statement concluded.
Netanyahu has openly criticized the ceasefire deal, specifically for its failure to address Iranian entrenchment in Syria. Israel has been monitoring several locations by satellite imagery that appear to be Iranian military bases under construction.