Putin calls on Netanyahu not to take any 'destabilising action' on Syria

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during an event marking International Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, January 29, 2018.

President Putin and Netanyahu discussed Israeli airstrikes on a Syrian airbase over the phone, the Kremlin said Wednesday.

The T-4 base had already been targeted by Israeli air raids in February, in retaliation for a drone sent to its territory by Iran. The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.

In a statement after the call, the Kremlin said Putin "emphasized the importance of respecting Syria's sovereignty", and called on Netanyahu to avoid any action "that could further destabilize the situation" in Syria.

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Israel has not accepted responsibility for the operation although the Israeli government has long made it clear that it would not allow Iran to establish a permanent military presence in Syria.

On Tuesday, an Iranian official said the airstrike would "not remain without a response", according to Lebanese news channel Al Mayadeen. Both countries are allied with the Assad regime, which has been endeavoring to quell an uprising since 2011 and is estimated to have killed as many as 700,000 Syrians.

While Russia, Iran and Syria have accused Israel of carrying out the pre-dawn attack, Tel Aviv has refused to comment. Some 2,000 USA troops have been assisting rebel factions aligned with the West. Netanyahu fears that a US retreat from the conflict will allow Iran to expand its influence.

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