13:10 GMT +323 July 2018
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    Su-24 bombers of the Russian Aerospace Forces at the Khmeimim airbase in Syria.

    Danger of Russian-Israeli Clash in Syria Minimal, But Exists – Former Ambassador

    © Sputnik / Dmitriy Vinogradov
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    Former Israeli ambassador to the United States and president of the Washington and Jerusalem-based Israel Institute Itamar Rabinovich has told an audience at a lecture in Moscow that neither country would like to reach a point where Russian weapons are "tested" for real in combat in Syria against Israel.

    "The threat of a conflict is there, but I think it's minimal…I hope things will not come to that," Rabinovich said, speaking at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.

    According to the former diplomat, Russia and Israel have established channels of communication which help to prevent clashes between the two countries.

    Rabinovich also noted that Russia's presence in Syria is not concerning for Tel Aviv, unlike that of Iran's.

    "The war in Syria is over. We can understand the Russian presence in Syria. You are a great power; you have a military base in Syria; you wanted [Syrian President Bashar] Assad to remain in power. You have achieved this. You are keeping a minimal presence in Syria. Israel does not see a threat in it," he said.

    "As for Iran's presence, it is a threat. Why do they need ballistic missiles in Syria?" the ex-ambassador added. In his words, Iranian missiles are used by Lebanon's Hezbollah movement to threaten Israel. 

    Russia and Israel established several channels of communication to prevent accidental clashes soon after the start of the Russian military operation in Syria in late 2015 upon Bashar al-Assad request, including a hotline between the Israeli military command in Tel Aviv and Russia's airbase at Khmeimim.

    Israel has stepped up airstrikes against what it claims are Iranian military units in Syria in recent weeks; this includes a massed strike on May 10 against what Tel Aviv says were Iranian military targets in the country. Tehran has denied that it has an extensive military presence in Syria, and says that its contingent is limited to military advisers in the country to assist in its fight against terrorism. Like Russia's, the Iranian mission has the approval of Syria's internationally-recognized government.

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    Tags:
    clash, commentary, ambassador, Itamar Rabinovich, Iran, Israel, Syria, Russia
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