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Report: Russia asks Iranian forces to evacuate several Syrian sites

Russians seem to fear collateral damage of repeat airstrikes in Syrian space

An airstrike in Syria on June 24, 2020. (Photo: Twitter/Majd Fahd)

According to a Saudi-owned, London-based news outlet, A-Sharq Al-Awsat, Russian officers instructed Iranian forces to leave several locations in Syria, including Iran’s military headquarters in the western Hama province and a coastal outpost.

The Iranian headquarters in the Hama Governate are close to a Syrian army base that reportedly houses Russian-made military equipment, including the S-200 air defense system.

The Russians reportedly put forward the request during a meeting at the Hama Military Airport in central Syria on Wednesday, the same day that Israeli airstrikes reportedly targeted the airport and areas around it in Aleppo. The airstrikes hit Damascus International Airport, killing two Syrian soldiers and injuring two others, according to Syrian sources. 

Air bombardments of Iranian assets in Syria appear to be on the rise, with Israel being suspected of carrying out the operations.

Russia reportedly requested that Iran evacuate a site near the Mediterranean coastal city of al-Hamidiyah, after Syria accused Israel of targeting the town in July.

Recent airstrikes allegedly have hit targets in Damascus and in coastal areas south of the Tartus Governate, close to Russian assets in Syria. The strikes killed three servicemen and wounded another two.

On Aug. 23, Russia condemned Israel for the airstrikes on Iranian targets in Syria as “dangerous” and demanded “respect” for Syria’s “sovereignty.” 

“We strongly condemn the dangerous practice of Israeli strikes on Syrian territory,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a press conference in Moscow after meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad. 

“We demand that Israel respect the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and, above all, respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria,” the Russian minister said. 

Russia’s criticism of Israeli Air Force activities is a fairly recent development, as Israel has conducted hundreds of airstrikes in Syria without Russian condemnation until now. In recent years, Russia allowed Israeli operations in Syrian airspace, with Israel and Russia maintaining a deconfliction hotline to prevent accidental confrontations between Russian and Israeli aircraft. 

Moscow’s pressure on Tehran to reduce its presence at sensitive sites in Syria that are adjacent to Russian forces appears to indicate that Russia increasingly views the lethal cat-and-mouse game between Israel and Iran as a threat to Russian national interests in Syria. 

While Russia and Israel are hardly allies, and bilateral relations have deteriorated since the Russian invasion of Ukraine six months ago, both Moscow and Jerusalem are interested in preserving stability in Syria. 

Russia’s increasing pressure on Iran could be seen as an indirect admission that the Iranian ayatollah regime is a source of political instability in Syria and one that potentially undermines Moscow’s long-term goals in the region. 

Relations between Russia and Iran are complex. On the one hand, there is a matter of shared interests fueled by Western sanctions against both states. On the other hand, Russia and Iran view each other as rivals in Syria and the wider Middle East. 

In addition, Russian-Iranian military cooperation has been undermined recently by Russia's dissatisfaction with Iranian drones delivered to Russian forces deployed in Ukraine. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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