Israel continues to strike Iranian and Iran-linked military targets in neighboring Syria, and Russia isn’t happy about it.
“Once again we are insistently calling upon the Israeli side to refrain from such use of force,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told the TASS news agency last week.
Russia has for years been actively involved in the Syrian civil war by propping up and defending the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. On that same side of the conflict are Iran and its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah.
However, despite this connection, Russia has to date turned a blind to Israeli airstrikes on Iranian and Hezbollah forces in Syria. It is the Russian Air Force that effectively controls the skies over much of the country.
Israel would like to maintain this status quo, as it views the buildup of Iranian forces in Syria as a direct threat to the Jewish state. And that’s why the recent grumblings from Moscow are indeed troubling to Jerusalem.
But the Israeli strikes “are a crude violation of Syria’s sovereignty and may trigger a sharp escalation of tensions,” insisted Zakharova, who added that Russia “opposes attempts to turn Syria into a scene of armed confrontation between third countries.”
In an apparent response to Zakharova’s remarks, Israel Defense Minister Benny Gantz stressed that efforts to push Iran and Hezbollah out of the country would also benefit Syria.
“We will continue to prevent the Iranian entrenchment that is eating Syria up from the inside,” Gantz told reporters. “This is a supreme interest for the Syrian people and the regime: to stabilize, to remove Iranian forces from their territory and allow the country to be rehabilitated.”