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Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Netanyahu to Moscow as Syria's Assad pounds rebels near Golan

AFP , Thursday 5 Jul 2018
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives ahead of the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, July 1, 2018 (Photo: Reuters)
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow next week, his office said Thursday, for talks expected to focus on Syria.

It said in a statement that he would fly to Russia on Wednesday.

It did not give details of the visit but Israeli media said the conflict in neighbouring Syria was likely to be the focus of their discussions.

Since June 19, backed by their ally Russia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces have been waging an offensive in southern Syria in a push to drive rebels from the strategic area bordering Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Bombing intensified Thursday after the previous day's breakdown of Russian-brokered talks to end the offensive in Daraa province.

Netanyahu has warned Assad not to violate a demilitarised border zone set up under an armistice agreement between their countries following the 1973 Yom Kippur war.

"We have a Separation of Forces Agreement with Syria from 1974," he said on Tuesday. "We will adhere to it very strictly and so must others, everyone."

The two sides have never signed a formal peace treaty.

Israel occupied 1,200 square kilometres (460 square miles) of the Golan Heights from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

Tens of thousands of Syrians have fled their government's southern offensive in the country's and some have set up makeshift camps near the Israeli sector of the Golan.

The Israeli army has been delivering humanitarian aid to them across the armistice line but Netanyahu says no refugees will be admitted to Israel.

Israel has stayed out of Syria's protracted civil war, in which Tehran -- like Moscow -- backs Assad.

But Netanyahu insists that Iran, Israel's arch-foe, withdraw its forces from Syria, which it sees as a threat.

He has made his position clear to Putin in two previous meetings since the beginning of the year.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online.

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