Israel, Russia in talks to defuse tensions after Moscow-Damascus joint jet patrols: reports
Israeli and Russian military officers are in talks to reduce tensions after Moscow and Damascus held joint air patrols along the frontier of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights in southwestern Syria, Israeli media reported Monday.
The jet patrols occurred on Saturday and included Golan Heights air space, Israeli outlets Ynet and Times of Israel reported, referring to a Russian defence ministry statement.
"The mission route included the Golan Heights, the southern border of Syria, the Euphrates River and northern Syria... the Russian pilots took off from Khmeimim Air Base, while the Syrians took off from the Sayqal and Al-Dumayur bases near Damascus," the defence ministry statement read, according to Ynet.
The joint patrols would be a more regular occurrence moving forward, the ministry said.
Israel regularly conducts airstrikes in Syria against positions belonging to Lebanon's Hezbollah and other Iran-allied militias, which support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
Saturday's aerial patrol left Israeli officials "concerned", Ynet reported.
Russia's military intervention in Syria, which began in September 2015, has enabled Assad to retake control of most of the country.
Last October, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Russian-Israeli relations were "important", in part due to the million Russian speakers present in Israel.
In the same month, he announced Israel would keep the Golan Heights even if international attitudes to the Assad regime were to change.