As mortars pepper Israel amid increased fighting across border, Foreign Minister Lavrov defends Syrian army offensive to push out terror group
By Sue Surkes
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called on Tuesday for restraint on the Golan Heights amid increasing tensions along the Israeli-Syria frontier as the IDF continued to target the Syrian regime in response to apparently errant cross-border mortar fire.
The statement appeared aimed at Israel, whose jets on Tuesday hit Syrian army positions in two separate sorties after mortars from fighting in the civil war, which has recently intensified in the area, hit open areas in the Israeli Golan Heights.
Lavrov defended the Syrian regime’s offensive to retake areas from the Fatah al-Shams Front rebel group — until recently known as the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front — which has led to the increase in fighting, some of which has bled into Israel.
“There is the need to show restraint and not to allow any provocations in the Golan Heights,” Lavrov said, according to the Russian news agency Tass.
“There are terrorists universally recognized as enemies of mankind in the Golan Heights,” Lavrov said, according to the Sputnik news agency. “But, of course, dealing with them including through airstrikes should remain within the UN Security Council resolutions dedicated to the Golan Heights and with general restraint, avoiding any provocations.”
Under the terms of a Russian- and US-brokered ceasefire, the regime is allowed to continue fighting against terror groups among Syrian rebels.
Moscow is a key backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and Jerusalem’s policy of holding the Syrian regime responsible for all cross-border fire no matter who shoots it has led to concerns over Jerusalem being in direct conflict with the Kremlin.
Israeli officials have held a number of meetings with Russian officials to make sure competing interests in Syria do not lead to a confrontation between the allies.
Lavrov said Russia had been in contact with Syrian and Israeli officials, as well as officials in other regional countries.
The Syrian army claimed to have shot down two Israeli aircraft during the bombing run, but Israel said its planes had been targeted with surface-to-air missiles but were safe.
The incident was seen by some as a sign of Syria’s increasing unwillingness to let Israeli retaliatory strikes continue.