Naftali Bennett, Israel’s outgoing defence minister, said on Monday, Iran has begun withdrawing its forces from Syria. Although he didn’t offer any evidence to support his assertion, he urged his successor, Benny Gantz, to maintain pressure on Iran, adding that the trend might otherwise reverse.
“Iran is significantly reducing the scope of its forces in Syria and even evacuating a number of bases,” said Bennett in his valedictory address.
Iran, Israel’s arch-enemy in the Middle East, has been a key supporter, along with Russia, of President Bashar al-Assad during Syria’s civil war. Israel, which monitors neighboring Syria intensively, has carried out hundreds of air strikes in Syria targeting suspected arms and troop movements by Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas it sponsors.
Iran, which is struggling economically under the burden of U.S. sanctions and has also been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, has repeatedly said its military presence in Syria is at the invitation of Assad’s government and that it will remain in Syria as long as its help is needed.
A senior aide to Iran’s foreign minister, Ali-Ashgar Khaji, reiterated on Saturday that Tehran would continue working closely with the Assad government and Russia to combat terrorism and find a political solution to the Syrian crisis, Iran’s ISNA news agency reported.
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