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Netanyahu, Putin to meet next week in Moscow for talks on 'regional developments'

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a previous meeting in Moscow on July 11, 2018
Yuri KADOBNOV (POOL/AFP)

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday agreed to hold a “working meeting” in Moscow on Wednesday to discuss regional developments.

Speaking by telephone, Netanyahu congratulated Putin on the occasion of Defender of the Fatherland Day.

The Israeli Prime Minister was scheduled to meet with Putin in Moscow on Thursday, but announced earlier this week he would postpone his trip.

Haaretz daily reported on Wednesday that Netanyahu decided to cancel his trip because his election rival, Benny Gantz, was meeting with Yesh Atid party’s leader, Yair Lapid, to propose joining forces.

The assessment was later proven right, when Gantz and Lapid announced on Thursday an agreement to run a on a joint ticket in April's general elections.

"It's very important that we continue to prevent Iran from entrenching in Syria," the Israeli premier said of the planned meeting earlier this week. "This is one of the subjects, the main subject, that I'll be discussing with President Putin."

Netanyahu has not met with Putin since Russia blamed a downing of its military plane in Syria on Israel in September that killed 15 Russian servicemen.

(AP Photo/Marina Lystseva)

Moscow's report charged that the Israeli pilots -- who were carrying out an air strike on a target in Syria -- knew the Russian aircraft would become the target of what Israel has described as a "rampage" of Syrian anti-aircraft fire.

Israel rejected the report, saying Syria fired wildly without identifying whether its target was Israeli or Russian.

After Russia entered the Syrian war in 2015, backing Assad against rebels, Jerusalem and Moscow opened a direct communication line to avoid any clashes when Israeli airplanes were carrying out airstrikes.

The incident in September caused Moscow to provide the Syrian army with its S-300 missile defense system.

The delivery of the S-300 system to the Syrian army marks a major change in its defense capabilities, since the system tracks air crafts and ballistic missiles over a range of 300 kilometers.

Up until now, Israel assessed that the system has not been operational but has warned that it would be targeted if they fire at Israeli jets in the future.

Vincent LEFAI (AFP)

The delivery of the S-300 system to the Syrian army marks a major change in its defense capabilities, since the system tracks air crafts and ballistic missiles over a range of 300 kilometers.

Up until now, Israel assessed that the system has not been operational but has warned that it would be targeted if they fire at Israeli jets in the future.

However, an Israeli satellite imagery analysis released on Tuesday indicated that the S-300 system is “probably operational”.

“The images of the three erected launchers at various times in Syria indicate that they are probably operational. Operational S-300 and S-400 launchers which are deployed in Syria, are regularly erected,” ImageSat International wrote on its website.

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