Russia, after Netanyahu visit, backs off Syria S-300 missile supplies

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Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Friday urged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to expel Iranian forces from his country, after Israeli air strikes hit alleged Iranian targets in Syria.

"I will take this opportunity to send a message to Assad: Get rid of the Iranians, get rid of Qasem Soleimani and the Quds Force, they are not helping you, they only cause damage, and their presence will only cause problems and damages", Lieberman said.

Germany and France said they would seek to shield European companies from USA sanctions, which would prohibit companies that do business in Iran from using the US financial system.

Israel said its Thursday strikes were in response to a barrage of Iranian rockets on its positions in the occupied Golan Heights, the most serious military confrontation between the two bitter enemies to date.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran had "crossed a red line" in launching the attack and warned against any escalation of the conflict. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the strikes had removed any moral obligation Russian Federation had to withhold the missiles and Russia's Kommersant daily cited unnamed military sources as saying deliveries might begin imminently.

Near Syria's capital Damascus, opposition fighters and their families left three southern suburbs that were held by rebels bringing the area under government control for the first time in years, Syrian state media and a war monitor say.

In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said "the Iranian regime's deployment into Syria of offensive rocket and missile systems aimed at Israel is an unacceptable and highly risky development for the entire Middle East".


Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri says this time the Syrian retaliation was in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights but next time it will be in Israel proper.

Israel carried out an extensive attack on Syria overnight between Wednesday and Thursday.

Israel has made repeated efforts to persuade Moscow not to sell the S-300s to Syria, as it fears this would hinder its aerial capabilities against arms shipments to Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah.

Israeli intelligence has said it anticipated possible Iranian action after President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the nuclear agreement with Iran.

Following Israeli strikes on Iranian targets in Syria, Russia has positioned itself as a mediator between the Middle Eastern rivals as it has maintained good relations with both countries. The Israeli military said that several missiles hit the target, others were intercepted. "That was kind of soft language by the Iranians saying, 'OK, maybe we tried but we learned our lesson and we're going to stop this policy, '" said Ben-Onn.

The two sides have been fighting what amounts to a proxy war there for months.

The protests resembled other aggressive but orderly gatherings typical under President Hassan Rouhani, who has portrayed himself as seeking rapprochement with the West and is simultaneously trying to save the nuclear deal with world powers while attempting to appease hard-liners seeking revenge for Israeli attacks.

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