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Syria intercepts missiles near Damascus

Missile firing

Syrian air defenses intercepted missiles west of Damascus, state media reported Tuesday.

The incident comes two days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israeli policy on Syria would not be affected by the US withdrawal of its troops from the war-torn country.

"The decision to withdraw 2,000 US troops from Syria will not change our consistent policy. We will continue to act against Iran's attempts to entrench itself militarily in Syria, and to the extent necessary, we will even expand our actions there," Netanyahu said in his weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday. On the same day, the Israeli army said its soldiers fired toward several gunmen approaching Israel's border with Syria in the Golan Heights.

"I would like to reassure those who are concerned. Our cooperation with the US will continue in full and finds expression in many areas: Operations, intelligence and many other security spheres," Netanyahu said.

Israel’s Army Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot also commented on US President Donald Trump's decision Sunday, saying the move is "significant" but should not be overblown.

"The Russian presence in Syria since the end of 2015 created a new situation," Eisenkot told a conference at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.

"It required us to enter a dialogue to create a system to prevent friction, and it has been a factor affecting how we have used force. Through the entire period, I as chief of staff have felt that there has been an understanding regarding Israel's security needs," he added.

A Russian aircraft was downed by Syrian anti-aircraft missiles during an Israeli airstrike in September. The Russians blamed Israel for the mishaps, although Israel denied the allegations. However, Israel has significantly reduced its strikes in Syria following the incident.

Last week, Trump announced the US would withdraw its troops from Syria, alarming US allies and surprising all.

Following the decision, US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis resigned Thursday over Trump’s foreign policies on a number of issues.

Meanwhile, it is believed that Iran has decided to change tactics and focus on Iraq and Lebanon more instead of Syria.