Russian delegation toured border with Lebanon, was briefed on Operation Northern Shield; Netanyahu addresses US announcement it will withdraw from Syria; UNSC convened on Hezbollah tunnel network, many states condemn violation of Israel’s security and sovereignty.
A Russian foreign affairs and defense delegation are in Israel for a security briefing and meetings with Israeli counterparts.
The Russian delegation met with Israeli security officials on Wednesday and reportedly toured the northern border with Lebanon and were briefed on Hezbollah’s tunnel network and the progress of Operation Northern Shield on Thursday.
The delegation’s visit coincided with the United States announcement that it would immediately withdraw from Syria. President Trump released a televised address confirming his decision and announcing “We have been fighting for a long time in Syria. I have been president for almost two years… We have won against ISIS. We have beaten them and beaten them badly. We have taken back the land and now it’s time for our troops to come back home.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu reported that he spoke with President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ahead of the announcement on Monday. He reported “The American administration told me that it is the President’s intention to withdraw their forces from Syria. They made it clear that they have other ways of expressing their influence in the area. This is, of course, an American decision. We will study its timetable, how it will be implemented and – of course – its implications for us. In any case we will take care to maintain the security of Israel and to defend ourselves in this area.”
At the United Nations Security Council meeting on Hezbollah’s violations of international law on Wednesday, Russia called on both Israel and Lebanon to not violate agreements under UN Resolution 1701. Russia’s representative Vladimir Safronkov stated to the Council, “We are convinced that maintaining calm along the dividing line between Israel and Lebanon is necessary not only to prevent the escalation in this region, but also for stability in a broader context.”
Russia’s Embassy voiced support for Israel’s right to defend itself from Hezbollah’s tunnel threat. It stated ahead of the Security Council meeting, “No doubt that Israel has the right to protect its national security, including to prevent the illegal entry of anyone into the country. At the same time, we hope that the actions taken for this purpose will not conflict with UN Resolution 1701.”
On Wednesday, UN Under‑Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, confirmed Hezbollah’s tunnels are a violation of the UN resolution. During the meeting, Israel presented intelligence on Hezbollah’s tunnels and plans, including the “Conquering the Galilee” plan – a surprise attack on the northern Israeli town of Metula. The terror organization planned to use its tunnels to carry out a massacre on the Israeli town to be “followed by a full-scale missile assault and ground invasion”.
Several countries, including the United States, Sweden, UK and France, condemned Hezbollah’s tunnels and terror as a violation of Israel’s security and sovereignty.
Be sure to watch Amir’s special update on the US withdrawal from Syria.