Military police have been deployed to the Golan Heights frontier between Syria and Israel following weeks of mounting volatility in the area, Russia’s defense ministry has announced.
Senior ministry official Sergei Rudskoi said on Thursday that Russian military police had begun patrolling in the Golan Heights and planned to set up eight observation posts in the area.
Speaking at a news briefing in Moscow, Rudskoi said the Russian presence was in support of United Nations peacekeepers on the Golan Heights who, he said, had suspended their activities in the area in 2012 because their safety was endangered.
“Today, UN peacekeepers accompanied by Russian military police conducted their first patrols in six years in the separation zone,” he said.
“With the aim of preventing possible provocations against UN posts along the ‘Bravo’ line, the deployment is planned of eight observation posts of Russia’s armed forces’ military police.”
Golan Heights is a region in the Levant, spanning about 1,800 square kilometres. The region is internationally recognized as Syrian territory occupied by Israel.
According to officials, the Russian presence will be temporary with the observation posts to be handed over to Syrian government forces once the situation stabilized.
The deployment is in direct response to weeks of tension in the area. According to Reuters, Syria’s sweeping away of rebels into the southwestern pocket of the country has worried Israel. They believe the move could allow Iranian backers to entrench their troops close to the frontier.
Underlining the tensions, Israel killed seven militants in an overnight air strike on the Syrian-held part of the Golan Heights on Thursday.
According to Russian state news agency Tass, Iranian forces have withdrawn their heavy weapons in Syria to a distance of 85 kilometres from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. However, Israel has deemed the pullback as inadequate.
Israeli regional cooperation minister Tzachi Hanegbi said there was still a long-range threat posed by Iranian missiles or drones positioned in Syria.
“What we have laid down as a red line is military intervention and entrenchment by Iran in Syria, and not necessarily on our border,” he said.
“There’ll be no compromises nor concessions on this matter.”