Photo Credit: Avi Ohayon / GPO
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his wife Sarah, as he speaks with reporters prior to boarding a plane for New York

Israel is still expressing its “deep regret” over the loss of the crew of the Russian plane that was shot down last week by Syria during the IAF air strike over Latakia and its condolences to the families of the air crew in Russia and the Russian people as a whole.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s Diplomatic and Security Council met again over the issue on Tuesday prior his leaving for New York to speak at the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

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Netanyahu has also scheduled high-level meetings there with U.S. President Donald Trump and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, among numerous others.

But Russian anger over the incident in Syria still remains a major issue for Israel, especially since it could complicate IDF efforts to block Iranian military activities north of Israel’s northern border.

“In the past three years Israel has been very successful in preventing both the establishment of an Iranian military presence in Syria and the attempts to transfer lethal weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon,” Netanyahu said prior to boarding the plane on Tuesday.

“This is not to say that there haven’t been exceptions but all in all there has been very great success. We did this with maximum and successful security coordination with the Russian military.

“Since the tragic events in the skies over Syria I have spoken twice with President Putin,” he told reporters. “I expressed to him our deep regret over the loss of the crew of the Russian plane that was brought down by irresponsible Syrian anti-aircraft fire.

“This morning I convened the Security Cabinet which received a full update on the recent events. The Security Cabinet ministers also share in the deep sorrow of the Russian families and the Russian people.

Nevertheless, Netanyahu said that ultimately, Israel will continue to defend itself from Iranian escalation in the region, albeit preferably with Russian cooperation.

“We give full backing to the IDF in its actions to defend the state. We will continue to take action to prevent the establishment of an Iranian military presence in Syria and we will continue the security coordination between the IDF and the Russian military.”

The prime minister added that he discussed with Russia’s president the issue of how Israel would continue its military relationship with Moscow’s defense establishment following the incident.

“I agreed with President Putin that IDF and Russian military working teams would meet soon. We will do what is necessary to defend the security of Israel,” he said.

Meanwhile, he added, “The Security Cabinet has instructed the IDF to continue to take action against attempts by Iran to establish a military presence in Syria while continuing the security coordination with Russia.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.
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