Iranian forces pulled back from Golan Heights: Russian news agency

Reuters , Wednesday 1 Aug 2018

File photo: Syrian army soldiers gesture as they hold their weapons in Quneitra, Syria July 27, 2018. (Reuters photo)

Iranian forces have withdrawn their heavy weapons to a distance of 85 km (53 miles) from the Golan Heights frontier between Israel and Syria, TASS news agency quoted Russia's envoy to Syria as saying on Wednesday.

Backed by Russia, Iran, and the Hezbollah Shia militia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has retaken territory in southern-western Syria from rebels, bringing the pro-Assad forces in proximity to the Israeli border.

"The Iranians withdrew and the Shia formations are not there," the agency quoted Alexander Lavrentiev, President Vladimir Putin's special envoy to Syria, as saying.

Lavrentiev said Iranian service personnel whom he described as advisors could be among Syrian army forces who remain closer to the Israeli border.

"But there are no units of heavy equipment and weapons that could pose a threat to Israel at a distance of 85 km from the line of demarcation", Lavrentiev said.

Israeli officials see Iranian forces and Hezbollah as a direct threat to their country's security.

Last week an Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Russia had offered to keep Iranian forces at least 100 km from the Golan Heights ceasefire line.

But Israel rejected the offer, which came during a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The official said Netanyahu told Lavrov "we will not allow the Iranians to establish themselves even 100 kilometres from the border."

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