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Israel convenes security cabinet to discuss Syria, Lebanon threats

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, talks with Israeli soldiers at a military outpost during a visit at Mount Hermon in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights overlooking the Israel-Syria border on Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015.
AP Photo/Baz Ratner, Pool
It will be the first meeting of Israel's security cabinet since new Syrian ceasefire, Lebanon political crisis

Israel's security cabinet will convene on Monday morning to discuss threats along its northern frontier, in what will be the first high-level meeting on recent major developments in both Syria and Lebanon.

The security cabinet meeting comes following the implementation of a ceasefire agreement for southern Syria struck between the United States, Russia, and Jordan, which is aimed at limiting the encroachment of Iran-backed militias along the Israeli and Jordanian borders with Syria.

It also comes following a month of political upheaval in Lebanon, which saw Prime Minister Saad Hariri announce his dramatic resignation (since delayed) from Riyadh citing Iran and Hezbollah's grip on the country, which flamed the fires of a long-running rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran that has played out across the region.

Israel was left disappointed by the deal establishing a demilitarized zone near its border, arguing that the agreement does not push Iranian forces far away enough from its territory.

Menahem Kahana (AFP)

Reports have said that over the last week Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Syrian president Bashar Al Assad have reportedly conveyed both threats and overtures to each other through third parties -- including via Russia’s Vladimir Putin -- regarding the details of the agreement.

Kuwait's Al Jarida newspaper, citing a Western source briefed by an Israeli official, reported that Assad offered to demilitarize a buffer zone stretching 40 kilometers into Syria from the Israeli border on the Golan Heights, also tabling an offer for autonomy within a unified Syria for the country's Kurdish and Druze minorities.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Hadashot (formerly Channel 2 news), reported that Netanyahu warned Assad that Israel could drop its policy of non-interference in the Syrian civil war if he allowed Iran to establish itself militarily in the country.

The message reportedly conveyed to Assad was also made publicly by the prime minister on November 13.

"I have made it clear to our friends, first of all in Washington and also to our friends in Moscow, that Israel will act in Syria -- including in southern Syria -- according to our understanding and according to our security needs," Netanyahu told senior members of his Likud party.

Jalaa Marey (AFP)

Netanyahu was similarly quoted as telling French Prime Minister Emanuel Macron during a telephone call last week that Israel views Iranian activity in Syria as a legitimate "target" for Israeli strikes.

Despite Israel professing a policy of non-interference in Syria's over six-year long civil war, it has reportedly carried out numerous air strikes on targets inside Syria over the last several years, chiefly targeting weapons and other supplies it considered destined for Iran’s Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah.

Lebanon-based Hezbollah remains the most serious military threat facing Israel, with an estimated arsenal of some 100,000 and 120,000 short- and medium-range missiles and rockets, as well as several hundred long-range missiles trained on the Jewish State.

Lebanon's army chief has ordered troops stationed along the country's southern border with Israel to be "at full readiness" to face "threats of the enemy and its violations", while Hezbollah earlier this month placed its forces throughout Lebanon on maximum alert and issued instructions to its forces not to transfer any weapons being sent from Iran to Syria for fear of Israeli strikes.

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