Israel will continue to take military action to prevent the transfer of advanced weaponry to Syria, The New York Times quoted a senior Israeli official as saying Wednesday, a day after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi to discuss the troubled situation.
According to the Times, the Israeli official – who contacted the paper – said, “Israel is determined to continue to prevent the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah. The transfer of such weapons to Hezbollah will destabilize and endanger the entire region.”
“If Syrian President Assad reacts by attacking Israel, or tries to strike Israel through his terrorist proxies, he will risk forfeiting his regime, for Israel will retaliate,” the official was quoted as saying.
The comments came some two weeks after Israel reportedly hit a Syrian arms depot, a chemical weapons site and a weapons convoy in Damascus believed to be in transit from Iran to Hezbollah. Both Assad and Hezbollah’s head Hassan Nasrallah have threatened to retaliate.
The Prime Minister’s Office would not comment Wednesday evening on the report.
Meanwhile, Putin – at a press conference with Netanyahu following their meeting – said the two countries would continue to maintain contact regarding the Syrian situation.
“We agreed to continue contacts – both on the personal level and between our organizations, special services,” the Russian news service RIA Novosti quoted Putin as saying.
“A negative scenario may only be prevented by the earliest termination of the armed conflict and transition to a political settlement,” Putin said. “It is particularly important to avoid any actions that may sway the situation.”
Netanyahu said Israel and Russia were “trying to find ways to strengthen stability and security, we have a remarkable opportunity to directly speak with each other.”
Just prior to the three-hour meeting, Netanyahu – who set out for Russia soon after the cabinet approved the budget early Tuesday morning – said “the region around us is very stormy, unstable and explosive.
I am pleased to have this opportunity to try and consider together how to stabilize the region and look for ways to bring security and stability, which are certainly important for us but for you as well, for our common goals.”
Netanyahu was accompanied by National Security Council head Ya’akov Amidror, head of military intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi and Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin, a native Russian speaker who has accompanied Netanyahu on previous meetings with Putin.
Kochavi is believed to have given Putin intelligence having to do with Iranian and Hezbollah involvement in the fighting inside Syria.
Russian Foreign Intelligence Service chief Mikhail Fradkov and defense ministry officials accompanied Putin in the talks.
Neither leader made any public reference to the Russian intention – opposed by Israel and the United States – to sell state-of-the-art S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Syria.
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