In a visit to the Kremlin, the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that Russia and Israel will coordinate their efforts over Syria military actions. The coordination aims to prevent accidental clashes between Russian and Israeli troops.
The efforts comes after Russia deployed soldiers and equipment to Damascus to aid Syria’s crumbling army against the determined militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Although Russia concentrate its activities on Syria’s coast, more precisely around an old Soviet-era naval port in Tartus, fighter and attack aircraft will most likely conduct aerial strike against ISIL positions. The Russian naval facility in Tartus is still under Russia’s Ministry of Defence but is currently operated by civilian contractors.
Israel’s main concern was the deployment of Russian air superiority aircraft and anti-aircraft systems due to a constant air campaign against advanced weapons smuggling by Assad’s Lebanese ally Hezbollah. Netanyahu is also concerned that Russian state-of-the-art equipment might fall into Hezbollah’s arsenal.
“Our policy is to do everything to stop weapons from being sent to Hezbollah,” Netanyahu told Putin at their photo-op.
According to a U.S. official, Russia has been constantly deploying Su-24 Fencer and Su-25 Frogfoot to Latakia, an Assad stronghold, in the recent days. The official advanced numbers at 12 Su-24 Fencer and 12 Su-25 Frogfoot. There is also a possibility that Russia also deployed four Su-30 Flanker-C.
Although Putin and Netanyahu “agreed on a mechanism to prevent such misunderstandings,” there was no elaboration and comments from the Kremlin. The modus operandi will most likely remain secret to prevent possible confrontation between the West and Russia over Israel’s stance on Russian operations in Syria.
Israel’s chief of the armed forces and Major General Herzl Ha-Levi, director of Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate, made the visit with Netanyahu. The fact that Ha-Levi was present may be a sign of intelligence sharing activities between his Directorate and Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate, commonly known as GRU.
Despite that Russia and Israel might be sharing intelligence, the later has filled in its American allies with classified Russian technologies so their aircraft can be spotted quickly and clearly.
Netanyahu also informed the Americans on everything discussed between him and Putin. He also added that “Everyone has an interest in avoiding an unnecessary clash” over Syria.
Reuters reported that Russia and the United States were also having talks in “deconfliction” over Syria: “U.S. and Russian defense chiefs agreed on Friday to explore ways to avoid accidental interactions, also known as “deconfliction” in military parlance. But those discussions were described as only at their inception.”
Russia already started its aerial mission by launching drones to conduct surveillance operations, most likely to gather enough intelligence on the ground for future troop deployment.