Israel is highly concerned about the prospect of a stronger Iranian presence in Syria, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told his Italian counterpart, Roberta Pinotti, on Monday in Tel Aviv.

Israel is “very concerned by the strengthening of Iran in Syria, which will lead to a strengthening of the Shi’ite axis, in a negative manner,” Ya’alon said at a meeting in his Tel Aviv office.

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“This could encourage Iran to continue to activate a terrorism front against us from the Golan Heights. Iran will also continue to invest the money it will receive from sanctions relief in the development and acquisition of new weapons systems, and the building and fortification of terrorist proxies in the Middle East, Europe and America to spread terrorism around the world,” he said.

Iran has “not given up on its attempts to transfer weapons to the Gaza Strip through various means, and we witness these attempts all the time,” the defense minister added.

Although Israel would very much like the Syrian civil war to come to an end, he said the conflict, which has led to half a million casualties and ten million refugees has not completely stopped.

Pinotti told Ya’alon Israel and Italy are in the same boat, sharing regional problems, while acknowledging that Israel has been living with them for a long time.

Europe and the entire world are now beginning to experience these problems themselves, and can better understand what has been taking place in the area, she said.

Ya’alon also praised defense relations between Israel and Italy, pointing to the IAF’s use of Italy’s M346 training plane.

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