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

Smoke billows following an airstrike on the western frontline of Raqa on July 15, 2017, during an offensive by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, to retake the city from Islamic State (IS) group fighters
BULENT KILIC (AFP)
The July 9 accord created a deescalation zone in southwestern Syria between Assad's regime and the rebels

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposes the southwest Syria ceasefire agreed by Russia and the US since it would enable Iran to solidify its presence there, an Israeli official said Monday to AFP.

The July 9 accord creating a deescalation zone in southwestern Syria includes areas that have seen Israel retaliate over stray fire into the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights from clashes between Syrian regime forces and rebels.

Israel has also conducted several air strikes elsewhere in Syria since the civil war there erupted in 2011. Most strikes have targeted arms convoys or warehouses of its Lebanese arch-foe Hezbollah.

The Iran-backed Shiite movement is a key supporter of Syria's regime and is fighting alongside government forces.

An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that Netanyahu opposed the deal "because of [the] Iranian presence" in Syria.

According to Haaretz newspaper, Netanyahu expressed Israel's opposition to the ceasefire during a Sunday meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris.

Citing a senior Israeli official, Haaretz said Israel believed Iran aimed to expand its presence in Syria, not only in terms of military advisers but also in the form of an airbase for Iranian aircraft, a naval base and extensive military forces.

Israel seized 460 square miles of the Golan Heights from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community.

Around large chunk of the Golan Heights remains under Syrian control.

Netanyahu has repeatedly said Iran is a threat to Israel, the Middle East and potentially the world.

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