‘We are not pulling out of Syria,’ US assures Israel

The US seeks to assure Israel that it will maintain a presence in wartorn Syria and keep a lid on Iranian military ambitions.

By: Jack Ben-David, World Israel News

The US informed Israel that despite a recent Syrian ceasefire agreement signed by Moscow and Washington, the latter will not terminate its operations in the wartorn country. Nor will Iran be permitted to exploit the agreement to threaten Israel along its northern frontier, the US said, Channel 10 reported on Saturday.

According to the report, an anonymous White House official said it was made clear to Israel “that we are not pulling out of Syria. We are staying there until the end of the civil war.”

The agreement, signed in early November between the US, Russia and Jordan, raised concerns in Israel due to a clause demanding that Iranian-backed militias distance themselves from the Golan Heights, but permitting them to dig in 5-7 km away.

Voicing objections to the clause, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Israel will continue to “act in Syria, including in southern Syria, in accordance with its understanding and our security needs.”

In a bid to allay Israeli concerns, however, the US official told Channel 10 that “the ceasefire agreement is the first stage,” pledging that attempts will be made to further distance Iranian-backed proxies from the border.

“We will try to widen the buffer zone and push the Iranians back, 20 kilometers at first, and later perhaps as far as Damascus,” the official said.

Jerusalem appeared to be delivering on its warnings that it will not be deterred from carrying out military operations when an Israeli sortie fired missiles, allegedly from Lebanon, at an Iranian base near the the town of al-Kiswah overnight Saturday.

Further indications were given that Israel was behind the strike when, just a day prior, Netanyahu repeated his warnings that Iran’s military presence in Syria will not be tolerated.

“We will not allow a regime hell-bent on the annihilation of the Jewish state to acquire nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said Thursday in a pre-recorded address to the Saban Forum in Washington. “We will not allow that regime to entrench itself militarily in Syria as it seeks to do for the expressed purpose of eradicating our state.”