In a visit to the Kremlin, Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that Russia and Israel will coordinate their efforts over Syria military actions.
The coordination aims to prevent accidental clashes between Russian and Israeli troops.
The effort comes after Russia deployed soldiers and equipment to Damascus to aid Syria’s crumbling army against the determined militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Although Russia concentrates its activities on Syria’s coast -- more precisely, around an old Soviet-era naval port in Tartus -- fighter and attack aircraft will most likely conduct aerial strikes against ISIL positions. (Tartus is still part of Russia’s Ministry of Defence but is currently operated by civilian contractors.)
Israel’s main concern was the deployment of Russian air superiority aircraft and anti-aircraft systems due to a constant air campaign against advanced weapons smuggling by Assad’s Lebanese ally Hezbollah.
Netanyahu is also concerned that Russian state-of-the-art equipment might fall into Hezbollah’s arsenal.
“Our policy is to do everything to stop weapons from being sent to Hezbollah,” Netanyahu told Putin at their photo-op.
According to a U.S. official, Russia has been constantly deploying Su-24 Fencer and Su-25 Frogfoot aircraft to Latakia, an Assad stronghold, in recent days. It's possible that Russia has also deployed four Su-30 Flanker-C fighter aircraft.
Although Putin and Netanyahu “agreed on a mechanism to prevent such misunderstandings,” there was no further elaboration from the Kremlin. The modus operandi will most likely remain secret to prevent possible confrontation between the West and Russia over Israel’s stance on Russian operations in Syria.
Israel’s chief of the armed forces and Major General Herzl Ha-Levi, director of Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate, made the visit with Netanyahu. The fact that Ha-Levi was present may be a sign of intelligence sharing activities between his Directorate and Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU).
Russia and Israel might be sharing intelligence, but Israel also provided its American allies with information about classified Russian technologies, so Russian aircraft can be spotted quickly and clearly.
Netanyahu also debriefed the Americans on his meeting with Putin, noting that, “Everyone has an interest in avoiding an unnecessary clash” over Syria.
Reuters reported that Russia and the United States were also discussing “deconfliction” over Syria:
“U.S. and Russian defense chiefs agreed on Friday to explore ways to avoid accidental interactions, also known as 'deconfliction' in military parlance. But those discussions were described as only at their inception.”
Russia has already started its aerial mission by launching drones to conduct surveillance, most likely to gather enough intelligence on the ground for future troop deployment.
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