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Russia Says 'Arbitrary' Israeli Air Strikes On Syria Should Stop

A picture taken early on January 21 shows Syrian air defense batteries responding to what Syrian state media said were Israeli missiles targeting Damascus.

Russia has called on Israel to stop carrying out "arbitrary' air strikes on Syrian territory, days after the Israeli Air Force targeted what Israel said were Iranian forces in the war-torn country.

"The practice of arbitrary strikes on the territory of a sovereign state -- in this case, we are talking about Syria -- should be ruled out," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in Moscow on January 23.

Israel has pledged to stop Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria, carrying out hundreds of air strikes there against what it describes as Iranian targets in Syria and those of allied militia, including Lebanon's Shi'ite militant group Hizballah.

The strikes have caused friction between Israel and Russia, which along with Iran has provided President Bashar al-Assad with crucial military support throughout the Syrian conflict, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions.

Zakharova said such strikes added to tensions in the region, which she said was not in the long-term interests of any country there.

"We should never allow Syria, which has suffered years of armed conflict, to be turned into an arena where geopolitical scores are settled," she also said.

On January 21, the Israeli military confirmed it had attacked Iranian military targets in Syria, hours after Israeli forces carried out strikes near Damascus International Airport.

A Britain-based war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the missile strikes in and around Damascus hit apparent weapons depots of Iranian forces and Hizballah.

Israeli missile defenses intercepted an incoming missile over the Golan Heights in the wake of the strikes.

During a visit to an army base on January 23, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled that the Syria sorties will continue.

The Israel Defense Force “is the only military that is fighting the Iranian Army in Syria," he said. "I am certain in our ability to defeat the enemy."

With reporting by Reuters, dpa, and Interfax
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