Pentagon warns Assad against attacking pro-US Kurdish forces

04 June, 2018, 08:55 | Author: Bert Pena
  • Syrian forces loyal to Assad attack refugee camp in Damascus

Al-Moallem says Israel is making false claims to try and pressure Iran, its archrival.

Rebel factions hold stretches of Quneitra and Deraa provinces in the southwest, bordering the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, while Syrian army troops and allied forces control nearby territory.

But Assad said Iran's presence in Syria has been limited to officers assisting the army.

"Moscow said it understands the Israeli demands for withdrawing Iranian forces and their militias from Syria", the sources said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights described this development as unprecedented and will be applied over all Syrian territories.

Israel has frequently attacked military targets inside Syria in what is widely viewed as an attempt to prop up the terrorist groups that have been suffering heavy defeats at the hands of Syrian soldiers.

Shamkhani's statement was made after Russian officials, including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, stressed that Iranian forces and Lebanese Hezballah militia should leave southwestern Syria as soon as possible. However, neither Jerusalem, nor Moscow, publicly acknowledged any agreement between the sides regarding Iran's military presence in Syria.

Iran has been offering military advisory support to Syria at the request of the Damascus government, enabling its army to speed up its gains on various fronts against terror groups. The US troops will still stay in the area, Director of Joint Staff Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie said on Friday, arguing that the US forces are involved in an important work of "maintaining" the local de-confliction zone.

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On Friday a leading Arab newspaper is reporting that Israel and Russian Federation reached an agreement this week for just that.

On Saturday, Channel 10 reported that Israeli officials had denied claims by Russia's ambassador to the United Nations that it has reached an agreement with Moscow on the withdrawal of Iranian forces from southwest Syria.

"We are the most careful to return the displaced people to their homes and we will provide all facilitations to those who want to return", al-Moallem added.

The Syrian government has not even started any negotiations with the militants in these areas, al-Moallem said, calling the United States troop withdrawal a necessary prerequisite for any such talks.

USA forces are based in a southern desert pocket further east at Tanf, a strategic highway border crossing with Iraq.

Assad's threat to use force against USA allies in Syria and about 2,000 American troops providing them with air support and training prompted a warning from the Pentagon.

Over 2,000 USA troops in Syria are embedded with the SDF in the northeast as well as in the enclave of At-Tanf in the south, along the Jordanian border.

Shamkhani said on Saturday Iran supports a Russian-led effort to impose Syrian government control over the south of Syria.

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