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Netanyahu tells Putin delivery of S-300 to Syria will increase regional danger

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem September 16, 2018 Sebastian Scheiner/Pool via Reuters

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday that supplying advanced weapon systems to “irresponsible players” would increase dangers in the region, Netanyahu’s office said.

In a telephone call held shortly after Russia announced it would supply an S-300 surface-to-air missile system to Syria within two weeks, Netanyahu also said he told Putin that Israel would continue to protect its security and interests.

The Israeli leader also agreed with Putin on continued coordination between the two countries’ armed forces.

Russia’s announcement on the missile system came a week after Moscow blamed Israel for indirectly causing the downing of a Russian military plane in Syria. Israel said Syria was responsible.

Israel has long lobbied Moscow not to provide the S-300 to Syria, fearing this would hinder its aerial capability to strike buildups of Iranian and Hezbollah forces in Syria.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Moscow had in the past obliged Israel by refraining from supplying Syria with the system. But last week’s crash, which killed 15 Russian service members, had forced Moscow to take “adequate retaliatory measures” to keep its troops safe.

Russia, which fights in Syria to support the government, has said Syria shot the Il-20 surveillance plane down by mistake shortly after Israeli jets hit a nearby target. But it blamed Israel for creating dangerous conditions that caused the crash.

Israel, which has struck Syria scores of times during the war, said after the incident that it would work to improve “deconfliction” of its missions with Russian forces, but would not halt them.

Reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Gareth Jones