Israel and Russia reaffirmed its continuing coordination in the fight against Islamic jihadists in Syria on Tuesday in a phone call between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The two leaders agreed to continue diplomatic and military dialogue at various levels, as well as the crisis in Syria.
“Vladimir Putin stressed that there is no alternative to the launch of intra-Syrian negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations, as well as to the continued and uncompromising fight against Islamic State and other extremist groups acting in Syria,” the Kremlin was quoted as stating.
The phone call between Netanyahu and Putin came two days after the assassination of top Hezbollah terrorist Samir Kuntar in Damascus, who was killed in what Arab media has attributed to an Israeli airstrike.
Since September 30, Russia has officially entered the fighting in Syria, launching military operations in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Israel and Russia have set up special communication channels to make sure that fighter jets from both countries do not accidentally clash with one another.
While Israel has yet to confirm the nature of its involvement in Sunday’s airstrike, it is unknown whether Israel notified Russian officials ahead of time. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday he was unsure on whether Israel issued a warning.
“There is a working mechanism of information exchanges between the general staffs. It is the military who should be addressed with this question and asked if there had been any prior notifications on that score,” he said.
The conversation between Netanyahu and Putin comes on the heels of Russia being accused of war crimes by Amnesty International. On Wednesday, the London-based human right organization said that Russian air raids in Syria have killed hundreds of innocent civilians.
The strikes “appear to have directly attacked civilians or civilian objects by striking residential areas with no evident military target and even medical facilities, resulting in deaths and injuries to civilians,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty Middle East and North Africa director, in a statement.
“Such attacks may amount to war crimes,” he said, adding that it “is crucial that suspected violations are independently and impartially investigated.”
Amnesty reported that Russian officials “have claimed that their armed forces are only striking ‘terrorist’ targets. After some attacks, they have responded to reports of civilian deaths, by denying they killed civilians; after others, they have simply stayed silent.”
Since March 2011, when fighting broke out in Syria, it is estimated that 250,000 people have been killed and millions more forced to flee their homes.