Daily Israel Report

Israel Asked UN Not to Remove Forces from the Golan

Israel approached the UN, requesting that forces remain in the Golan despite the kidnapping of 21 peacekeepers.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 3/8/2013, 5:46 AM

Syrian rebels detain UN peacekeepers
Syrian rebels detain UN peacekeepers
Reuters

Israel has approached the UN and UNDOF (the multinational force charged with monitoring the ceasefire between Israeli and Syrian troops on the Golan Heights), requesting that the forces’ activity not be impaired due to the kidnapping of 21 peacekeepers by Syrian rebels.

According to a report on the Israel Defense website on Thursday, Israel also requested that the forces not be removed or their numbers reduced due to the kidnapping incident, which is considered UNDOF’s most serious since its establishment.

The request comes after Croatia already began removing its soldiers from the border in April 2012 over concern for their lives, said the report.

On Wednesday the UN confirmed that 21 observers had been detained by approximately 30 armed rebels in the Golan Heights on the Syria-Israel border.

The confirmation came in response to a video posted on the Internet that portrayed men claiming to be Syrian rebels standing next to vehicles marked with the letters "UN".

The rebels are demanding that President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces withdraw from the outskirts of the village of Jamla in exchange for the release of the peacekeepers.

On Thursday the Al-Jazeera network broadcast a video of six of the observers who were abducted.

The Philippine battalion commander said his troops are safe, adding, "We are here because while we were passing from Position [unclear], there were bombings and artillery fires. That is why we stopped and civilian people helped us for our safety, and distributed us in different places to keep us safe. And they gave us good accommodations and gave us food to eat and water to drink."

The troops were wearing their own uniforms and did not show signs of having been abused.

Meanwhile, reported Israel Defense, officials in Israel’s defense establishment that the 21 inspectors are expected to be released soon and return to the UN base in Quneitra.

According to information that reached the Israeli defense establishment, the UN has achieved an agreement with the rebels for the release of the 21 people, via a negotiation team sent to Syria.

Israel had expressed concern that the UN peacekeeping force in the Golan Heights could pull out altogether because of the kidnapping.

The Yediot Aharonot daily said Thursday that Israeli officials were concerned that the UN force in the area would "be dismantled and that al-Qaeda members will take control of the buffer zone between Israel and Syria. There is concern that al-Qaeda will take over this buffer zone and the villages near Israel," the paper said of the 80-kilometer (50-mile) strip of land which is between half a kilometer and 10 kilometers wide (500 yards to six miles).

A video published Tuesday showed Al Qaeda terrorists along Israel’s northern border from the Golan Heights, tracking IDF soldiers from the Syrian side of the fence.

The operatives, who are fighting on the side of the opposition forces attempting to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, are members of a 13-faction radical Islamic coalition, the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Syria that has declared itself completely separate from the mainstream opposition sector. Most of the group's members are linked to the international Al Qaeda terrorist organization.