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Mossad chief says Iran working to 'fill void' left by Islamic State

Israel has long been issuing cautions over a growing threat from its rival Iran

The head of Israel's overseas spy agency, the Mossad, warned the Israeli cabinet on Sunday that the country's arch-foe Iran is expanding its presence in the region, working to "fill a void" left by the radical Islamic State (IS) group.

In the briefing to ministers, Yossi Cohen emphasized that Iran is expanding through Iranian forces and local emissaries based in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen - including areas that were former IS strongholds.

"In places where the presence of Daesh [Arabic acronym for ISIS] is limited, Iran is working to fill the void," Cohen told the cabinet.

Later on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu echoed Cohen's warnings, summarizing his analysis as "Daesh departs, Iran enters".

"We are talking mainly about Syria," he added, continuing that "our policy is clear. We strongly oppose the military buildup of Iran and its satellites, primarily Hezbollah in Syria, and we will do everything necessary to preserve Israel's security. That's how we act."

He added that Iran has also not given up its aspirations to become a nuclear threshold state and that the nuclear agreement between the two powers and Iran only reinforces this trend and is strengthening Iranian aggression in the region, according to a statement from the Prime Minister's office.

Since the signing of the nuclear agreement Iran has seen a spark in economic growth and new international agreements only further strengthen its economy, Cohen also warned.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded in agreement, stating that this constitutes clear proof that the basic assumptions in the agreement with Iran were wrong in the first place. He also offered praise to Cohen and the activities of the Mossad.

Later on Sunday, Netanyahu echoed Cohen's warnings, summarizing his analysis as "Daesh departs, Iran enters".

"We are talking mainly about Syria," he added at an event in the southern city of Ashdod."Our policy is clear. We strongly oppose the military buildup of Iran and its satellites, primarily Hezbollah in Syria, and we will do everything necessary to preserve Israel's security. That's how we act."

Israel has long been issuing cautions over a growing threat from its rival, Iran.

According to a report last week in Haaretz newspaper, Israeli opposed the recent ceasefire in southwestern Syria during secret talks with the US, Russia and Jordan, arguing that it would pave the way for greater Iranian influence near its borders.

Israeli officials reportedly told the Americans and Russians that they should demand Iranians, the Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah and the Shi’ite militias leave Syria.

Israel argued that, if Iran remained in Syria, it would become a base for missiles being launched into Israel and Jordan.

Read more: Hezbollah leader threatens Israel's nuclear facility

Read more: Israel reportedly opposes truce deal in Syria over fears of Iranian presence

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