Syrian president visits Iran one day before Netanyahu trip to Russia

Syrian state-run media say President Bashar Assad has visited Iran and met with officials there on a rare trip abroad.

By Associated Press and World Israel News Staff

Syrian media outlet SANA announced that President Bashar Assad met with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani on a rare trip outside of Syria— the first time he has traveled anywhere other than Russia since the Syrian civil war erupted nearly eight years ago.

Tehran has given the Syrian government billions of dollars in aid since the conflict began and sent Iran-backed fighters to battle alongside his forces.

Iran also bankrolls several Islamic terror groups in the region, including the Houthis in Yemen, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Hamas and Hezbollah are sworn to the destruction of the Jewish state and receive hundreds of millions of dollars in aid from Iran each year.

Syrian state TV said Assad “thanked the Islamic Republic’s leadership and people for what they have given to Syria during the war.”

The visit comes a day before a trip by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Russia for talks expected to focus on Iran’s role in Syria.

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Israel has long maintained that Iranian military entrenchment in Syria is a red line, with the Israeli military carrying out hundreds of strikes on positions in Syria over the course of the past two years, many of which have targeted Iranian troops and military assets.