Israel expressed concern, Thursday, following Austria's announcement that it was withdrawing its 380-soldier contingent from the 1,000-member United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) on the Golan Heights, according to Agence France Presse. Spokesman Aryeh Sharuz Shalicar of the Foreign Ministry told AFP, "We appreciate the contribution and commitment of the Austrian forces to keeping the peace in the Middle East over the years, however we regret this decision, and express hope that it will not lead to an additional escalation in the area." He added, "We have to be ready for any development."
An Israeli security source described the developments on the strategic plateau as "very worrying." The army spokesman, meanwhile, said they were watching the situation "very closely." Israel has long feared that the violence could force UNDOF to completely pull out, leaving the ceasefire zone from 1973's Yom Kippur War with Syria open to infiltration by terrorists. UN peacekeeping spokesman Kieran Dwyer told AFP that talks were underway with other countries about sending troops to the Golan force.