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Israel fears Syria buffer will put Iran close to frontier

Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 November, 2017

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The official map included in a preliminary agreement that seeks to establish buffer zones in southwest Syria indicates that Iran-backed forces could deploy within several kilometres of the Israeli frontier.

The official map included in a preliminary agreement that seeks to establish buffer zones in southwest Syria indicates that Iran-backed forces could deploy within several kilometres of the Israeli frontier - setting the stage for potential conflict between the bitter enemies.

The map shows the buffer area nearly abutting the town of Quneitra next to the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.

Israel seized 1,200 square kilometres of the Golan Heights from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

The two countries remain technically at war, although before the eruption of the conflict inside Syria in 2011 the armistice line remained largely quiet.

The AP obtained a copy of the map, part of a "memorandum of understanding" between the US, Russia and Jordan reached last week, on Wednesday.

Israel has long complained about the involvement of archenemy Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hizballah in Syria.

Iran and its Shia allies have sent forces to back President Bashar al-Assad, who appears to be on his way to victory after a devastating six-year civil war.

Israeli leaders have repeatedly warned that they oppose a permanent military presence by Iran or its allies in post war Syria.

Officials have pushed for assurances from the international community that any Iranian-backed forces remain far from Israel's border.

In Washington, a US official confirmed its authenticity, but said the deal was only preliminary and still subject to changes.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the matter with the media.

Israeli officials have said little about last week's preliminary agreement, noting only that Israel was not a party to the deal and will defend its interests.

During a visit to Israel's northern border on Wednesday, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman stressed that the army is prepared for all scenarios.

"We maintain the right to act freely and the only consideration guiding us is the security of the state of Israel," he said.

"We will simply not allow a Shia or Iranian presence in Syria. We will not allow Syria to become a front line against the state of Israel. Anyone who has yet to understand this, should."

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