Israel fears an "Iranian crescent" may be forming in the Middle East because of Tehran's influence in Syria and its connections with regional Shiite groups, an intelligence official said Monday.
The comments from Chagai Tzuriel, director general of Israel's intelligence ministry, illustrate his country's growing concerns over its arch-foe Iran's involvement in the conflict in neighbouring Syria.
Iran's support for Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, which also backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, also concerns Israel, as does Tehran's influence in Iraq and its support for groups such as the Huthi rebels in Yemen.
"I think that... Israel believes that if Iran bases itself for the long run in Syria it will be a constant source of friction and tension with the Sunni majority in Syria, with the Sunni countries outside Syria, with Sunni minorities outside the region, with Israel," Tzuriel told foreign reporters.
"And I think that may be only the tip of the iceberg," he added. "We're talking here about the creation of an Iranian crescent."
Part of it, he said, involved worries that Iran could complete a "land bridge" through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean.
Israel has sought to avoid being dragged into the six-year Syrian conflict, but has acknowledged carrying out strikes to stop advanced weapons deliveries to Hezbollah, with whom it fought a devastating war in 2006.
Last month, in the most serious incident between the two countries since the Syria war began, Israeli warplanes struck several targets there, drawing retaliatory missile fire.
Israel used its Arrow interceptor to destroy what was believed to have been a Russian-made SA 5 missile, and Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman threatened to destroy Syria's air defence systems "without the slightest hesitation" if it happened again.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has held a series of talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in recent months on how to avoid accidental clashes in Syria.
A "hotline" has been set up between the two countries, but Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz has said Moscow is not notified in advance of an Israeli strike.
Russia backs Assad in Syria, but Israeli officials say they are confident they can continue to coordinate with Moscow despite their differing interests.
Russian police suspect that the explosion on a Saint Petersburg subway train was caused by a suicide bomber, the Interfax news agency reported late Monday, after a man suspected of being behind the bombing turned himself into police.
The agency quoted an unidentified law enforcement official saying that authorities had identified the suspected attacker as a 23-year-old national of an ex-Soviet Central Asian nation. It didn’t name the suspect or the country.
Monday’s bombing killed 11 people and wounded 45 others as Russian President Vladimir Putin was in Saint Petersburg, his home town.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Russian media published photos of the suspect wearing what appeared to be a skullcap characteristic of Russia’s Muslim regions.
The National Anti-Terrorism Committee said the death toll was 11, with another 45 people being treated for wounds in hospitals.
Amateur video broadcast by Russian TV showed people lying on the platform of the Technological Institute station, and others bleeding and weeping just after the damaged train pulled in.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent condolences to Russian President Vladimir Putin after at least 10 people were killed in a bombing attack on a Saint Petersburg subway.
“On behalf of the Government of Israel, I send condolences to President Putin and to the families of those who were murdered following today’s bombing on the Saint Petersburg subway,” Netanyahu wrote Monday in a statement hours after the afternoon blast, which also injured dozens more.
“The citizens of Israel stand alongside the Russian people at this difficult time.”
Tel Aviv City Hall lit up Monday night with the colors of the Russian flag in solidarity with the country following the attack.