Dec 1, 12:01 PM EST

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Conflict in the Middle East

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel operates inside Syria "from time to time" to prevent sophisticated weapons from reaching its enemies in Lebanon, Israel's prime minister said Tuesday, in the strongest admission yet of his country's involvement in the civil war.

Israel is widely thought to have carried out a number of airstrikes in Syria that have targeted advanced weapons systems, including Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and Iranian-made missiles, believed to be destined for the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah militant group.

Israel battled Hezbollah in an intense monthlong war in 2006, and Israeli leaders have repeatedly said it would not let the group obtain "game-changing" weapons. But they have largely remained mum on specific strikes.

"We operate in Syria from time to time to prevent it from becoming a front against us, a second terror front against us," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a conference in the northern Israeli city of Acre.

"We are also acting of course to prevent the transfer of deadly weapons from Syria to Lebanon in particular and we will continue to do so," he said.

Netanyahu's remarks come as Israel and Russia have established a mechanism meant to coordinate between their air forces in Syria. Russia recently began carrying out airstrikes there to help Syrian President Bashar Assad in his battle against Islamic militants and other rebels.

Israel has otherwise largely remained on the sidelines of the war, though it has returned fire when rockets or mortar shells have strayed into Israeli-controlled territory.

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