TEL AVIV – Israel has asked Russia to ensure that Syrian troops refrain from massacring civilians in the south of the country while the Assad regime continues its takeover of the area near Israel’s border from rebel groups, Channel 2 news reported.
According to the report, Israeli officials passed on the message to Moscow via a third party. Islamic State-affiliated groups are losing their last strongholds in the area and the Syrian government has regained control in a massive offensive over the past month.
The IDF would also temporarily suspend its massive aid operation, called Operation Good Neighbor, that has seen thousands of Syrians receive medical treatment, food and clothing since 2013, a report by Channel 10 said. Israel has also treated more than 5,000 Syrians in field hospitals and hospitals around the country as part of the program.
However, IDF officials said that the proximity of fighting near the border has forced the temporary closure of the program, since Israel has maintained a strict policy of non-interference throughout the civil war.
They emphasized, however, that as soon as the outcome of Assad’s offensive was clear, the humanitarian efforts would resume and the border with Israel would reopen to Syrians in need of medical care.
Earlier this month, Israel for the first time facilitated a mass transfer of refugees when hundreds of Syrian “White Helmets” rescue workers and their families crossed the border through Israel to Jordan.
Russia’s Ambassador to Israel Anatoly Viktorov on Monday told Channel 10 that despite Israel’s demands, Moscow cannot force Iranian forces to withdraw from Syria. He conceded that the Kremlin could talk to its “Iranian friends” but nothing more.
He said Iran is playing a “very important role” in Syria to “eliminate terrorists.”
“The Iranian presence in Syria … is fully legitimate according to the UN principles and the UN charter,” he added.