(Persia Digest) - Reuters reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russia on Wednesday that Israel would not seek to topple its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but Moscow should encourage Iranian forces to quit Syria, a senior Israeli official said.

Netanyahu conveyed the message in talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the official said, just hours after Israel shot down what it described as a Syrian drone that had penetrated its airspace, underscoring the frontier’s volatility.

Israel has been on high alert as Assad’s forces advance on rebels in the vicinity of the Golan Heights, much of which Israel captured from Syria in 1967 and annexed in a move not recognized internationally. Israel worries Assad could let his Iranian and Hezbollah reinforcements entrench near Israeli lines or that Syrian forces may defy a 1974 Golan demilitarization.

“They (Russia) have an active interest in seeing a stable Assad regime and we in getting the Iranians out. These can clash or it can align,” said the Israeli official on condition of anonymity.

“We won’t take action against the Assad regime,” the official quoted Netanyahu as telling Putin in Moscow.

Israel has been on high alert as Assad’s forces advance on rebels in the vicinity of the Golan Heights, much of which Israel captured from Syria in 1967 and annexed in a move not recognized internationally. Israel worries Assad could let his Iranian and Hezbollah reinforcements entrench near Israeli lines or that Syrian forces may defy a 1974 Golan demilitarization.

“They (Russia) have an active interest in seeing a stable Assad regime and we in getting the Iranians out. These can clash or it can align,” said the Israeli official on condition of anonymity.

“We won’t take action against the Assad regime,” the official quoted Netanyahu as telling Putin in Moscow.


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“We are still looking into why it crossed - whether it was on a military mission and crossed on purpose, or it strayed,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman. He said a stray drone was “not common”.

Israeli cabinet ministers threatened this week to fire on Syrian forces that enter the Golan buffer zone set up as part of a 1974 U.N.-monitored armistice. The United Nations last month renewed the mandate of its Golan observer force UNDOF and on Wednesday called on all parties to abide by the armistice.

“There should be no military forces in the area of separation other than those of UNDOF,” a U.N. spokesman said.

Israel has signaled openness to eventual ties with Assad, a tacit acknowledgement that he is re-consolidating power as he routs Syria’s rebels.

Under Assad family rule, Syria held direct negotiations with Israel in the United States in 2000 and indirect talks mediated by Turkey in 2008. Netanyahu’s government has made clear it would not now cede the Golan and has been lobbying for U.S. recognition of Israel’s claim of sovereignty there.

On June 24, Israel’s military said it launched a Patriot missile at an incoming drone from Syria, which turned away unscathed. A Syrian commander said the drone was engaged in local operations. On July 6, Israel struck a Syrian post that it said had shelled the Golan buffer zone.

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