Russia has deployed military police to monitor two safe zones being established in Syria, including one watch post near Israel’s Golan Heights, the Defense Ministry in Moscow said Monday.
Col.-Gen. Sergei Rudskoy, chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the Russian General Staff, said that Russian forces had set up checkpoints and observation posts in the southwest de-escalation zone as well as one covering eastern Ghouta, near Damascus.
According to Rudskoy, two checkpoints and 10 watch posts were deployed on July 21 and July 22 “along the approved areas of lines of contact” between rebel forces and Assad regime troops.
“It is to be stressed that the nearest watch post is 13 kilometers from the separation zone between Israel and Syria, near the Golan Heights. The zone has been approved in accordance with the international agreements,” he said, adding that Moscow had informed Israel, the United States and Jordan about the deployment.
The agreement to set up de-escalation zones was reached during peace talks in the Kazakhstan capital of Astana in May, and earlier this month, the boundaries of the zones were agreed upon by Russia, the United States and Jordan.
Russian and Israeli officials have met several times in the past year. Given that Russia carries out military operations in Syria, and Israel has reportedly been responsible for several air strikes against Hezbollah targets in the wartorn country, the two have implemented a system over Syria to coordinate their actions in order to avoid accidental clashes.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman in February spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about the situation in Syria and the cease-fire negotiations taking place in Astana between Russia, Iran and the UN.
But Israel is said to have opposed the deal struck with Washington and Amman, saying that it was not consulted on its terms, and that it doesn’t sufficiently address threats posed by Iran in the area.
Jerusalem has repeatedly said it would not allow Iran to set up a permanent presence in Syria.
Following the announcement of the agreement on the de-escalation boundaries, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, a former national security adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said that the new arrangements in southern Syria do not take Israel into consideration.
“We understand the threats which emerge from this arrangement which was done without taking into consideration what Israel has to do to guarantee its ability to defend itself,” Amidror said during a conference call coordinated by the Israel Project, a pro-Israel advocacy group based in Washington.
“The Americans and Russians have their own strategic goals in Syria, and Israel tried to make everyone understand its interests,” he added.
Liberman stressed earlier this month that while there is no interest by Israel to enter Syria’s seven-year civil war, there are red lines that Jerusalem has set, including the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah and an Iranian presence on its borders.
“We will not tolerate any Iranian presence on the border and we will continue to act against that,” he said.