Israel's Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot said Israel was caught off-guard by Russian President Vladimir Putin's announcement on Monday that Moscow's forces will begin withdrawing from Syria.

“Syria will never return to its previous state, and may be permanently divided into six distinct regions," Eizenkot said during a speech at the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, according to The Times of Israel news portal.

Eizenkot's statement followed Putin's declaration that Russia will start withdrawing “most" of its forces from Syria.

“I think that the tasks of the Defense Ministry are generally fulfilled. That is why I ordered withdrawal to begin of most of our military group from Syria starting tomorrow," Putin said.

Russia was among the major actors in the conflict in Syria, killing 390 people, including 103 children, in February 2016 alone with the purpose of backing the Assad regime.

Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011 when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.


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