An Israeli political source said on Tuesday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on April 21 to discuss security issues in the Middle East.
A hotline was decided between Israel and Russia to avoid their aircraft accidentally clashing over Syrian territory which enables Israel to continue to carry out covert strikes to foil suspected Hezbollah or Iranian operations against it on Syrian turf without fear of accidentally clashing with Moscow.
Last year, Russia deployed forces to help Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad turn the tide in a five-year-old civil war, and also served to restrain his anti-Israel allies, Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group, Israeli officials privately said.
Although most military forces were withdrawn two weeks ago, Russian forces continue to operate in Syria and jets and helicopters have conducted dozens of strikes daily over Palmyra, helping Syrian regime forces recapture the historic city from DAESH terrorists.
Putin had said in a visit to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin earlier in March that he agreed to meet Netanyahu to discuss the security situation in the Middle East.
An Israeli official who declined to be named said during Rivlin’s meeting with Putin that he "asked that Russia work to restore UNDOF as part of any long-term arrangement in Syria", referring to a United Nations peacekeeping force.
UNDOF monitors the Israeli-Syrian frontier on the Golan Heights. Personnel from UNDOF came under fire and even been kidnapped by militants fighting regime forces, prompting peacekeeping contingents from some participating nations to withdraw from the force.
Israel sits amid a war-torn and largely unstable Middle East, including the Golan Heights, which was annexed from Syria in 1981. Assad's regime forces completely withdrew from the region after the onset of Syria's civil war in 2011.
Israel reserves the right to intervene in the region, and intends to inform Russia of such right if any of their “red lines” are crossed. The nature of those red line is not clear or made publicly explicit.
Israel and Russia set up a coordination team on Sept. 24 to prevent the countries accidentally trading fire with each other in Syria.
Russia’s moves in Syria have worried neighbouring Israel which has occasionally conducted air strikes in Syria against Assad’s ally Hezbollah.
Israel has been also concerned that military hardware deployed in Syria could be in the hands of Hezbollah and may be turned against Israel one day, according to Israeli officials.