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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 23 January 2019

Israel army says delegation heading to Russia over Lebanon ops

Announcement follows phone call between Netanyahu and Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi last year. EPA
Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi last year. EPA

An Israeli army delegation will head to Moscow on Tuesday to brief their Russian counterparts on operations to destroy Hezbollah tunnels from Lebanon, the military said.

"An Israeli army delegation composed of senior officers and led by the head of army operations, General Aharon Haliva, will fly to Moscow on Tuesday," the military said in a statement.

"During the day-long visit, the delegation will brief their Russian counterparts on Operation Northern Shield and other operational issues," said the statement issued on Monday.

The announcement came after a telephone call between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Israel on Wednesday launched an operation - dubbed Northern Shield - aimed at destroying alleged Hezbollah "attack tunnels" infiltrating its territory from Lebanon.

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Ties between Israel and Russia have been strained since the accidental downing of one of Moscow's transport planes on September 17 by Syrian ground batteries killed 15 service personnel.

Moscow pinned responsibility for the incident on Israel, saying its fighter jet used the larger Russian plane for cover, an allegation Israel disputed.

Russia subsequently upgraded Syrian air defences with the delivery of the advanced S-300 system.

The Kremlin said on Saturday that Mr Netanyahu had called Mr Putin to discuss the operation against alleged Hezbollah tunnels.

During the conversation, Mr Putin stressed "the need to ensure stability along the dividing line between Israel and Lebanon", according to Russia's embassy in Israel.

Mr Netanyahu for his part reaffirmed Israel's policy of preventing the establishment of an Iranian presence in Syria and to "act against the aggression of Iran and Hezbollah".

Israel occupied parts of Lebanon for 22 years until 2000, and the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement claimed credit for its withdrawal following persistent guerrilla attacks.

The two countries are still technically at war but the border has remained relatively calm in recent years.

Russia is fighting on the same side as Iran and Hezbollah in support of President Bashar Al Assad in Syria.

Updated: December 11, 2018 10:30 AM

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