Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, July 11, 2018. (YURI KADOBNOV / POOL PHOTO / AP)
JERUSALEM - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow Wednesday and told the Russian leader that Israel will act firmly against anyone attempting to breach its borders.
The meeting held in Kremlin took place a few hours after a Syrian drone entered Israel's airspace. It was intercepted by a Patriot missile above the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel.
The incident highlighted the escalating tensions across the disputed border between Syria and Israel.
Several hours ago, a Syrian UAV penetrated Israel's airspace. We shot it down and we will continue to take strong action against any trickle of fire and any infiltration into Israel's airspace or territory
Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel
"Several hours ago, a Syrian UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) penetrated Israel's airspace," Netanyahu told Putin during remarks at the start of the meeting.
"We shot it down and we will continue to take strong action against any trickle of fire and any infiltration into Israel's airspace or territory," he warned.
The drone did not carry weapons and was designed to carry out a surveillance mission, the army said earlier.
The meeting focused on Iran's presence in Syria. "Our view that Iran needs to leave Syria is well-known; it is not new to you," Netanyahu told Putin.
He thanked Putin for "the opportunity to discuss these matters," and said that the "cooperation between us is a central component in preventing a conflagration and deterioration of these and other situations."
The meeting between Netanyahu and Putin was their ninth meeting in the last three years.
Israel and Russia have been coordinating their actions in war-torn Syria. The downed UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) was another reminder as to how volatile the region is.
Syria has been heavily involved in internal strife for several years now, with occasional incidents of stray fire penetrating Israeli territory.
Hezbollah, a militant organization from Lebanon, is believed to have thousands of fighters in Syria in order to help President Bashar al-Assad retain power. In the past three years, Russia has also sent forces to Syria in an attempt to bolster Assad.
Israel has warned it will open fire at any forces that Assad's army would try to deploy in the demilitarized Golan Heights buffer zone, which was established as part of a 1974 UN-backed cease-fire agreement.
The timing of the Putin-Netanyahu meeting on Wednesday is considered not as coincidental. Israel sees the recent developments in Syria as critical to shaping the future, in which the Israeli leader does not want Iranian presence in Syria.
"As long as there is coordination," said Yehuda Blanga, an expert on Syria and Egypt from the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at the Bar Ilan University in Israel, "there is an understanding between the Russians and Israelis."
"I do not remember any other Israeli leader that has met so frequently with a Russian leader. This is testament to unprecedented cooperation between the two countries," he added.
While it is clear that Israel does not have Russia's international stature, Putin is attentive to Israel's needs which are confluent to some of his interests.
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