Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman set off for Moscow on Wednesday night to meet with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu to discuss Iran’s growing military presence in Syria.
“The primary focus of the defense establishment is preventing the entrenchment of Iran and its proxies in Syria,” Liberman wrote in a tweet before his flight.
Israel has warned that Iran is trying to establish a military presence in southern Syria, and last month accused the Islamic Republic of firing a salvo of rockets at Israel from the neighboring territory.
Shoigu visited Israel in October 2017 when he met with Liberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Channel 10 reported on Wednesday that a high-level security cabinet meeting earlier in the evening dealt primarily with the sensitive situation in Syria, and not, as expected, with the barrage of rocket and mortar fire from Gaza over the last day and a half.
During the two-hour meeting at military headquarters in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu told his ministers he spoke with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and urged the US administration to demand that a proposed US-Russian-Jordanian agreement on the deployment of forces in southern Syria include a stipulation that Iranian forces leave the country altogether, according to Channel 10.
The agreement appears to be set to demand that Iranian and Iran-backed forces stay 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) from the Israeli and Jordanian borders.
Lavrov echoed comments he made earlier in the week, when he said that only Syrian troops should be stationed in the rebel-held Daraa province, a region adjacent to the Israeli border that has emerged as a flashpoint in a wider standoff between the Jewish state and Iran.
On Monday, the Haaretz daily reported that Russia was considering trying to keep Iranian forces and their allies from Israel’s northern border, fearing that repeated Israeli strikes may undermine Syrian President Bashar Assad’s grip on the country.
Israel has acknowledged carrying out several aerial raids on Iranian targets in Syria, and is suspected of carrying out several more, the most recent last week, when a military air base in western Syria was hit in an airstrike.
Much of the Iranian infrastructure is set up on Syrian bases and Israel has also frequently hit Syrian air defenses during strikes on Iranian targets. The preemptive effort by the Israel Defense Forces against Iran and its allies in Syria is known collectively as “Operation Chess.”
Last week, Iran appeared to reject remarks from Russia’s leader that it should pull its forces out of Syria after a political settlement is reached in the war-torn country.