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MIDEAST >Russia summoned Israeli ambassador over Syria strikes

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The Russian Foreign Ministry on March 20 said it had summoned Israel’s ambassador to the country over air strikes close to Moscow’s forces near the historic Syrian city of Palmyra.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told Interfax news agency that Ambassador Gary Koren was summoned on March 17 and “asked about” the strikes, AFP reported.

The ministry “expressed concern” about the action taking place near Russian military locations, Bogdanov said.

Russia - which is conducting its own bombing campaign in Syria in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad - said earlier this month that more than 180 of its troops have started demining around Palmyra’s ancient monuments.

Russia and Israel have set up a “hotline” aimed at avoiding air clashes over Syria and Bogdanov said Moscow “would like this channel to work more effectively” to ensure no “misunderstanding on who is doing what.”
Israeli warplanes struck several targets on March 17, prompting retaliatory Syrian missile launches, in the most serious incident between the two countries since the war began six years ago.

Israel’s military said it had been targeting weapons bound for Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, which backs al-Assad in Syria.

Syria’s military said it had downed an Israeli plane and hit another as they were carrying out pre-dawn strikes near Palmyra, the famed desert city it recaptured from jihadists this month.

The Israeli military denied that any planes had been hit.

On March 29, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman threatened to destroy Syria’s air defense systems “without the slightest hesitation” if there was a similar incident.

Russia has deployed its own high-tech missile defense systems to Syria to protect its forces there.

March/20/2017

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