Skip to main content

Israeli cabinet holds urgent, unscheduled meeting on Syria: Reports

Details of meeting were banned from publication at request of Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz
An Israeli flag is seen placed on Mount Bental in the occupied Golan Heights on 10 May 2018.
An Israeli flag is seen placed on Mount Bental in the occupied Golan Heights on 10 May 2018 (AFP/File photo)

Israel's cabinet convened for an unscheduled meeting on Tuesday for urgent discussions regarding a humanitarian issue related to Syria as well as Russian mediation, but the details of the event were shrouded in secrecy, according to multiple Israeli media outlets.

The Times of Israel reported that cabinet ministers were called to an urgent vote related to a humanitarian issue tied to Syria that Russia was helping to coordinate. The specifics of the issue, however, were classified.

Details of the meeting, which was convened at 6pm local time and lasted about an hour, were banned from publication at the request of Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz, Haaretz reported.

Cabinet ministers were notified of the meeting at 4pm and were asked not to reveal details of it to the media or even reveal the meeting's existence.

The meeting, organised by Gantz and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, dealt with a "sensitive security matter", Haaretz reported.

Israeli missile strikes 'kill six non-Syrian militia fighters' near Damascus
Read More »

In recent weeks, Netanyahu has spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi have spoken with their Russian counterparts, Sergey Shoygu and Sergei Lavrov.

Last Monday, Gantz's office said the defence minister's call with Shoygu was a discussion on the issue of humanitarian efforts.

"The two agreed to continue the important discussions between Russia and Israel… about the need to advance humanitarian efforts in the region," his office said in a statement.

Russia, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has played the role of mediator between Israel and Damascus, as the two countries do not have diplomatic relations.

In 2019, Moscow helped facilitate the return of the remains of Zachary Baumel, an Israeli soldier who went missing in the 1982 Battle of Sultan Yacoub against the Syrian army in eastern Lebanon.

His remains were transferred from Syria to Russia and then to Israel in April 2019. 

Russia and Israel also have a deconfliction mechanism in place, which allows Israeli jets to strike Iranian targets in Syria without threatening Russian forces.

The meeting also comes a day after the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Israeli missile strikes killed at least six pro-government fighters in Syria. An Israeli army spokesperson said it "cannot comment on these reports".

Israel has carried out hundreds of air and missile strikes on Syria since the civil war broke out in 2011, targeting Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces as well as Syrian government troops.