Moscow ‘removes’ military personnel from Syria
MOSCOW / JERUSALEM
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cautioned warring parties in Syria against any attacks on Israel. AA photoRussia has withdrawn all its military personnel from Syria and left its strategic Tartus naval center unstaffed because of the escalating security threat in the war-torn country, the Vedomosti daily said yesterday.
The business daily cited an unnamed source in the Russian Defense Ministry as saying that no Russian Defense Ministry military or civilian personnel were now present in Syria.
The source said the decision was taken to limit the dangers posed to Russians amid a raging civil war and to reduce the threat of political damage that could result from Russians being killed by either side.
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov had appeared to confirm the evacuation of military staff in an interview with the London-published Arabic-language daily Al-Hayat published last week.
“Today, the Russian Defense Ministry does not have a single person in Syria,” he said.
“In Tartus, we never had a base in the first place. It is a technical facility for maintaining ships sailing in the Mediterranean,” he added.
Netanyahu oversees Golan drill
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu observed yesterday military drill on the Golan Heights, where he was there last in September, and told troops that their training may be put to use in the near future, as opposed to exercises in past years, which were just “theoretical.”
Netanyahu was accompanied by Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and Israeli Army Chief of Staff Benny Gantz as he watched soldiers during drills that included tanks and armored personnel carriers.
“We are not seeking to challenge anyone, but no one will harm the State of Israel without a response, a strong and resolute response,” he told soldiers who took part in a Golani infantry brigade exercise.
Netanyahu has said repeatedly that Israel has no desire to be drawn into the fighting. But in his remarks to the soldiers he noted they were training for “a variety of possibilities.”
“The exercise we are carrying out here is not theoretical,” Netanyahu said, in comments broadcast on Israeli radio.
“The reality around us is changing at a tremendously rapid pace. It is volatile and dynamic and we have to be prepared accordingly.”
Israel has conducted at least three air strikes on suspected Syrian depots for arms destined for Lebanon’s Hezbollah fighters and its forces have occasionally shelled Syrian positions in response to shooting at the Israeli side of the Golan.