Israel will defend itself after US withdraws its troops from Syria, says prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Jerusalem: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that Israel will defend itself after the US withdraws from Syria, a decision the premier said he has discussed with President Donald Trump.

 Israel will defend itself after US withdraws its troops from Syria, says prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu

File image of Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. AP

"We will study its timetable, how it will be implemented and — of course — its implications for us. In any case we will take care to maintain the security of Israel and to defend ourselves in this area," Netanyahu said in an English language statement released by his office. The Israeli prime minister said he had discussed Washington's plans on Tuesday with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Trump.

"We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency," the US leader wrote on Twitter, referring to the Islamic State group.

Trump was hinting at plans to pull out of Syria, which were subsequently confirmed by a US official. "Full withdrawal, all means all," the US official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Currently, about 2,000 US forces are in Syria, most of them on a train-and-advise mission to support local forces fighting IS. Their withdrawal will be implemented "as quickly as possible", the official said without providing a timetable.

Israel has launched dozens of strikes in Syria since the war started in 2011, targeting Iranian positions and those of Hezbollah as well as weapons convoys to the militant group. Both Iran and Hezbollah support Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and are enemies of Israel.

Observers have warned a withdrawal of US troops from Syria would see Assad — along with his Russian and Iranian allies — secure his influence over the country and wider region.

Updated Date: Dec 20, 2018 09:52:03 IST