PM wants buffer zones on Syria border as part of deal to end war — report

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly pushing for the establishment of buffer zones along the Syrian border with Israel and Jordan as part of any future internationally brokered resolution to the six-year civil war.

According to a report by the Haaretz daily on Friday, Netanyahu raised the issue with both US officials and other world powers, in a bid to distance Iranian and Hezbollah fighters from Israeli territory.

Netanyahu wants the buffer areas be on the Syrian side of the border, secured by forces other than Israel, the report said.

Israeli officials have long accused the Iranian Revolutionary Guards of trying to build an anti-Israel front on the Syrian Golan, alongside Hezbollah forces and local Druze opposed to Israel. Netanyahu has sought Russia’s help in seeking to thwart the attempts of Iran and its terrorist proxy Hezbollah to use Syria as a base from which to attack Israel.

Netanyahu raised that issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin — whose forces are aligned with Iran in supporting the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad — in a meeting in Moscow last month.

Fighters of the Shiite Hezbollah terror group attend the funeral of a comrade who died in combat in Syria in the southern Lebanese town of Kfar Hatta on March 18, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmoud Zayyat)

“The prime minister will express Israel’s strong opposition to the presence of Iranian forces, and those of its proxies, on our northern border and in the Mediterranean Sea in the context of the talks on a settlement of any kind,” Netanyahu’s office said ahead of the meeting.

Also last month, Chagai Tzuriel, the director-general of the Intelligence Ministry, told The Times of Israel that keeping Iran and Hezbollah from getting a foothold on the Golan was at the top of the agenda for Israel’s security apparatus.

“If Iran and Hezbollah manage to base themselves in Syria, it would be a permanent source of instability in the entire region,” Tzuriel explained, referring specifically to the threat of an Iranian naval base on the Mediterranean. “It would also bring instability to areas with Sunni minorities outside the Middle East.”

Over the past year, Israel has carried out numerous airstrikes on Syrian territory, most of which were reportedly targeting Hezbollah weapons convoys. In April 2016, Netanyahu admitted for the first time that Israel had attacked dozens of convoys transporting weapons in Syria destined for the Lebanon-based terror group, which fought a 2006 war with Israel and is now battling alongside the Damascus regime.

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