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UN Sends Protest to Syria Over Golan Attacks

UN sends protest letter to the Syrian government for claiming it had UN permission to attack rebel opponents in the Golan Heights.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 11/16/2012, 5:14 AM

View from the Golan
View from the Golan
Flash 90

The United Nations has protested to the Syrian government for claiming it had UN permission to attack rebel opponents in the Golan Heights demilitarized zone, according to a letter revealed Thursday and obtained by AFP.

"We regard it as a serious matter that Syrian authorities would claim that a United Nations senior official would approve activities in violation of Security Council resolutions," UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said in a letter to Syria's UN ambassador.

Ladsous demanded that the Syrian army halt "incursions" into the demilitarized zone between Syria and Israel, which he said were a threat to the unarmed UN observers and civilians.

Syria's deputy foreign minister, Faisal Muqdad, told AFP on Wednesday that the commander of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) had approved Syrian action to pursue rebels.

“Certain extremist forces entered the demilitarized zone, occupied two or three villages and threatened to kill the inhabitants," Muqdad told AFP. "We consulted the UNDOF mission, who said: 'Yes, you can solve the problem.'"

Ladsous, however, said in the letter to Syria's ambassador Bashar Jaafari that the UNDOF commander "strongly denied" having given any approval.

"On the contrary, the force commander informed the Syrian authorities that should the SAAF (Syrian Arab Armed Forces) proceed with the operations, UNDOF would protest officially," the peacekeeping chief added.

Ladsous said the Syrian activities undermined the UNDOF mission and "exposed United Nations personnel to serious safety and security risks" and could jeopardize the ceasefire accord between Israel and Syria.

Israel has twice in the past week fired across the ceasefire line, established in 1974, in response to stray fire from Syrian troops fighting rebels inside the zone.

On Thursday, Syrian shots were fired at an IDF post in the Golan Heights. A soldier was very lightly wounded.

Reports earlier this week indicated that the Syrian army has pledged to Israel that its soldiers will avoid firing at the Israeli side of the border.

The IDF has changed the rules of engagement along the Syrian border in response to the continued spillover of the fighting in Syria.

The new orders instruct soldiers to respond if fire from Syria is dangerous and persistent.