Tehran is supporting Bashar al-Assad with deployments of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), Basij militia and funding to allied militias including Hezbollah.
The IRGC are now reported to be present in Syrian-government controlled territory along the 1967 ceasefire line in the Golan Heights, which has seen months of Israeli air strikes met with rockets fired towards the Israel Defence Forces (IDF).
Brigadier General Mohammad-Reza Naghdi, a commander in Iran’s Basij force, was pictured surveying the border, while a Shia paramilitary group has formed a “Golan Liberation Brigade”.
Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, an Iraqi force backed by Iran, is “ready to take action to liberate Golan” from Israeli occupation, according to spokesman quoted by Iranian state media this week.
The deployments have made the Iranian government a major power broker in the Syrian civil war, meeting with Russian and Turkish representatives at ceasefire talks in Astana, Kazakhstan.
In a meeting with Vladimir Putin on Thursday, the Israeli Prime Minister said that any truce must not allow the continued presence of Iranian forces in Syria.
“We do not want to see Shia Islamic terrorism led by Iran step in to replace Sunni Islamic terrorism,” Mr Netanyahu told the Russian President.
“Iran continues attempts to destroy the Jewish state. They speak of this openly and write this in black and white in their newspapers.
“Today, we have our own country and our army, and we can defend ourselves. But I want to say that the threat of Shia Islamic terror is directed not only against us, but against the region and the entire world.”
He told reporters Iran was “arming itself and its forces against Israel including from Syria territory and is, in fact, gaining a foothold to continue the fight against Israel”.
After the meeting, the Israeli Prime Minister said the removal of Iranian forces from Syria were vital to “prevent misunderstandings”.
“I made it clear that regarding Syria, while Israel is not opposed that there should be an agreement there, we strongly oppose the possibility that Iran and its proxies will be left with a military presence in Syria under such an agreement,” Mr Netanyahu added.
A statement released by the Kremlin said he and Mr Putin discussed “joint efforts to combat international terrorism” and examined areas of bilateral cooperation.
Two years ago, Israel and Russia agreed to coordinate military actions over Syria in order to avoid accidentally trading fire but the risk of skirmishes is increasing as pro-Assad forces fight for more territory in the Golan Heights.
The region has been occupied by Israeli forces since the Six Day War in 1967 and was effectively annexed in 1981, despite condemnation from the UN.
In pictures: Russian air strikes in Syria
In pictures: Russian air strikes in Syria
Syrian boys cry following Russian air strikes on the rebel-held Fardous neighbourhood of the northern embattled Syrian city of Aleppo
Russian defense ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov speaks to the media in Moscow, Russia. Konashenkov strongly warned the United States against striking Syrian government forces and issued a thinly-veiled threat to use Russian air defense assets to protect them
Syrians wait to receive treatment at a hospital following Russian air strikes on the rebel-held Fardous neighbourhood of the northern embattled Syrian city of Alepp
Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov speaks at a briefing in the Defense Ministry in Moscow, Russia. Antonov said the Russian air strikes in Syria have killed about 35,000 militants, including about 2,700 residents of Russia
Jameel Mustafa Habboush, receives oxygen from civil defence volunteers, known as the white helmets, as they rescue him from under the rubble of a building following Russian air strikes on the rebel-held Fardous neighbourhood of the northern embattled Syrian city of Aleppo
Civil defence members rest amidst rubble in a site hit by what activists said were airstrikes carried out by the Russian air force in the town of Douma, eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria
A girl carrying a baby inspects damage in a site hit by what activists said were airstrikes carried out by the Russian air force in the town of Douma, eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria
Civilians and civil defence members look for survivors at a site damaged after Russian air strikes on the Syrian rebel-held city of Idlib, Syria
Civilians and civil defence members carry an injured woman on a stretcher at a site damaged after Russian air strikes on the Syrian rebel-held city of Idlib, Syria
Volunteers from Syria Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets, help civilians after Russia carried out its first airstrikes in Syria
The aftermath of Russian airstrike in Talbiseh, Syria
Smoke billows from buildings in Talbiseh, in Homs province, western Syria, after airstrikes by Russian warplanes
Russian Air Forces carry out an air strike in the ISIS controlled Al-Raqqah Governorate. Russia's KAB-500s bombs completely destroy the Liwa al-Haqq command unit
Caspian Flotilla of the Russian Navy firing Kalibr cruise missiles against remote Isis targets in Syria
Â© TASS/ITAR-TASS Photo/Corbis
Russia claimed it hit eight Isis targets, including a "terrorist HQ and co-ordination centre" that was completely destroyed
A video grab taken from the footage made available on the Russian Defence Ministry's official website, purporting to show an airstrike in Syria
A release from the Russian defence ministry purportedly showing targets in Syria being hit
Russia launched air strikes in war-torn Syria, its first military engagement outside the former Soviet Union since the occupation of Afghanistan in 1979. Russian warplanes carried out strikes in three Syrian provinces along with regime aircraft as Putin seeks to steal US President Barack Obama's thunder by pushing a rival plan to defeat Isis militants in Syria
Caspian Flotilla of the Russian Navy firing Kalibr cruise missiles against remote Isis targets in Syria, a thousand kilometres away. The targets include ammunition factories, ammunition and fuel depots, command centres, and training camps
Â© TASS/ITAR-TASS Photo/Corbis
Despite maintaining cordial relations with Israel, Russia is a key ally of Iran in Syria as both sides continue to back the Assad regime against both opposition rebels and Isis.
The Iranian government claimed the IRGC were originally sent to Syria in an advisory capacity, but the troops have now taken a more frontline role, being found by The Independent fighting on the frontlines near Aleppo city last year.
Avi Dichter, the chair of Israel's foreign affairs and defence committee, said several attempts by Iran to move forces into the Syrian Golan Heights had been repelled last year, without giving details.
Israel says it has carried out dozens of strikes in Syria to prevent weapons smuggling to the Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah, with the Russian government denying it had given permission for the operations.
IRGC Brigadier General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi was among those killed in Israeli bombing, as well as several senior Hezbollah commanders.
The Syrian civil war, now in its sixth year, shows little sign of slowing with fighting breaking out between rival rebel groups who have seized swathes of territory from Isis.
The US has sent hundreds of troops into the country in preparation for an advance on the terrorist group’s de-facto capital of Raqqa, risking escalation with Turkey, which classes some American-backed groups as terrorists and wants its own troops to lead the assault.
The first UN-led Syria peace talks in a year ended without a breakthrough in Geneva last week, with further meetings scheduled for later this month.
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- Syria conflict
- Syrian civil war
- Iranian Revolutionary Guards
- Benjamin Netanyahu
- Vladimir Putin
- Golan Heights