Mar 9, 2022 - World

Israel-Russia coordination in Syria unaffected by war in Ukraine

A banner depicting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin reads, "Justice Prevails," along a highway in the Syrian capital Damascus
A banner depicting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin reads, "Justice Prevails," along a highway in the Syrian capital Damascus. Photo: Louai Beshara/AFP via Getty Images

Military coordination between Israel and Russia in Syria hasn't been interrupted since Israel condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine, three Israeli officials told Axios.

Why it matters: Russia holds enormous influence in Syria but allows Israel to operate freely against Iranian activity there. Israeli officials have told the U.S. and other allies that they need to take a careful approach to the Ukraine crisis to ensure that continues.

Driving the news: On Monday morning local time, Israeli air force jets fired missiles at several targets near Damascus, Syria's Defense Ministry said.

  • On Tuesday, Iran's Tasnim News Agency reported two Iranian soldiers were killed in the airstrike.
  • This was the first Israeli airstrike in Syria since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As in most cases, Israel didn’t claim responsibility for the airstrike.

Behind the scenes: Two Israeli officials told Axios that Bennett didn’t raise the issue of airstrikes in Syria in his meeting with Putin last Saturday to keep from linking Ukraine and Syria in any way.

  • Putin also didn’t raise the issue. Other Russian officials haven't raised it either, even as they've protested the Israeli condemnation of the invasion.
  • During their meeting in Riga on Tuesday, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told Blinken that Israel is on the U.S. side of the war in Ukraine but has to take into consideration its vital security interests with Russia in Syria, according to an Israeli official.

What they're saying: "The IDF is going to continue defending the citizens of Israel at any time and in any place. Our operations against Iran’s malign activity and especially Iranian military entrenchment in Syria will continue as much as needed,” a senior Israeli defense official said.

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