Russia Rejects Israeli Request of 70 km Buffer over Iran Militias Presence

Russia has rejected a request made by Israel to create a large buffer zone on the border of the Golan Heights in an attempt to keep Iranian forces and their militias around 70 kilometers away from Israeli territories, political sources in Tel Aviv have said.

Israel had asked Russia and the US not to have a presence of Iranian forces or their militias to the west of the road connecting Damascus and the city of Al-Suwayda in southwest Syria.

The Russians only promised that the Iranians and their allies would not come any closer to Israel than five kilometers from the armistice lines between those of Bashar Assad’s regime and the rebels, the sources said.

The regime continues to control the northern part of the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, from the city of Quneitra north toward Damascus, this means in practice the Russians only promised to keep the Iranians away from the actual border.

Senior Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have recently expressed concern over Iranian Revolutionary Guards, “Hezbollah” and other Iran-backed militias approaching the border.

No such Iranian presence has been identified over the past few months, but Israeli intelligence expects the Iranians to infiltrate the border area gradually, and that over the long term the Iranians intend on consolidating their military and intelligence presence there.

Experts believe that Iran intends to use the Syrian Golan Heights as a secondary front against Israel in the case another war breaks out between Israel and Hezbollah.

Israeli officials confirm that Tehran spends about $800 million a year to support Hezbollah in Lebanon. They say Iran is also giving hundreds of millions of dollars to the Assad regime and militias fighting in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Iran also provides aid to the military wing of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Hamas and the Islamic Jihad now receive some $70 million a year from Iran, the officials added.

Source: Asharq Al-Awsat

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