PM confirms Russia and Israel to create team to remove foreign forces from Syria; IDF shells targets in Quneitra; Netanyahu thanks UK for outlawing Hezbollah, addresses anti-Semitism in Europe.

Prime Minister Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin for several hours last week, the focus of their talks on “the Iranian issue.” Speaking during his weekly cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Netanyahu confirmed he made it “unequivocally clear that Israel will not allow the military entrenchment of Iran in Syria, and I also made it unequivocally clear that we would continue to take military action against it.”

Netanyahu announced that Israel and Putin have “a common goal – the withdrawal of foreign forces that arrived in Syria after the outbreak of the civil war,” reporting that a new, joint team would be created to handle the mission. He stated, “We agreed to establish a joint team to advance this goal, together with other elements.” He also reported that they both agreed to the “continuation of the security coordination mechanism between the Russian military and the IDF [Israel Defense Forces].”

The prime minister invited Putin to be the guest of honor at a memorial service and dedication for soldiers fallen at Leningrad, Putin reportedly accepting the invitation. Netanyahu added on Sunday, “It is no small thing that we have such strong, good and close links with leaders of the major powers in the world. These links serve the security of Israel.”

Also on Monday, Syria’s SANA reported that IDF tanks shelled targets in Quneitra close to the border between Israel and Syria. The IDF refused to comment on the reports. IDF strikes on Quneitra were last reported in January targeting Iranian-backed Shi’ite militia.

Prime Minister Netanyahu also thanked the United Kingdom for its decision to outlaw Hezbollah. Britain announced last week that it will recognize the entirety of Hezbollah, including its political wing, as a terror organization and will begin taking measures to ban Hezbollah in the United Kingdom. Netanyahu praised the decision, stating “Last week, another very important thing occurred diplomatically and concerning security… This is an important decision because Hezbollah is a terrorist organization in its own right, and it is also the main terrorist arm of Iran.” He called on other countries “first of all in Europe but also around the world, to join this important move by Britain.”

Netanyahu then addressed the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, referring to the recent vandalism of Jewish gravestones and memorial of a synagogue burned to the ground by the Nazis in World War II in Strasbourg, France. The incident was the second in weeks after over 100 gravestones were spray-painted with swastikas in the same city. Addressing the incident, Netanyahu stated “I strongly condemn all manifestations of anti-Semitism and I call upon all leaders of enlightened countries to join in the systematic and continuous denunciation of anti-Semitism. The first way to fight anti-Semitism is to denounce and condemn it.” 

He added, “I welcome the fact that other countries are joining the definition of anti-Semitism, which also includes the definition of anti-Zionism. Anti-Zionism is the latest and most recent expression of anti-Semitism.”

French President Emmanuel Macron recently announced his country would adopt the new definition, as anti-Semitic incidents and events in France have risen nearly 75% in the past year. 

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