UN Actively Reviewing Safety of Golan Peacekeepers
The safety of UN observers in the Golan Heights is under “very active review” after a shooting in the hours following the release of 21 peacekeepers by Syrian rebels, the UN spokesman said Monday.
“Over the weekend there was an incident in which one post came under fire from two unidentified individuals,” spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters, according to AFP.
An observation post manned by peacekeepers was the target of the attack on Sunday, a UN peacekeeping official said.
No member of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) was hurt, however, AFP reported.
On Saturday, Syrian rebels released 21 Filipino peacekeepers who were abducted on Wednesday.
Nesirky said the review had been launched because of growing insecurity over several weeks as the two-year-old Syrian civil war spreads.
“This is a very dangerous place to operate and it’s therefore obvious that our colleagues in peacekeeping operations would be reviewing very carefully the way that we then carry out patrols and so on, on the ground,” Nesirky said, according to AFP.
UN officials said that UNDOF, which has about 1,000 peacekeepers from the Philippines, India and Austria, has already ended night patrols in the zone.
Croatia recently said it was pulling its contingent out because of fears over safety. Canada and Japan pulled their small number of peacekeepers out last year.
The UN Disengagement Observer Force has been tasked since 1974 with ensuring a ceasefire between Israel and Syria is respected in the Golan Heights.
After last week’s kidnapping, Israel expressed concern that the UN peacekeeping force in the Golan Heights could pull out altogether.
Reports on Thursday indicated that Israel has approached the UN and UNDOF, requesting that the forces’ activity not be impaired due to the kidnapping of the 21 peacekeepers.
Meanwhile, Syrian rebel fighters have vowed to wage war against Israel once their battle against President Bashar al-Assad is over.
In a video posted on the Internet a couple of weeks ago, a small group of jihadist rebel fighters was filmed against the backdrop of the demilitarized zone in the Golan Heights – the buffer zone that for some 40 years has served to keep the border quiet between Syria and Israel.
“We are in the occupied Golan Heights, which the traitor [former President] Hafez Assad (the present president’s father) sold to Israel 40 years ago,” a rebel spokesman tells the viewer, waving around his assault weapon. These lands are blessed and the despicable Assad family promised to liberate them, but for 40 years the Syrian army did not fire a single bullet.
“We will open a military campaign against Israel,” the bearded rebel spokesman vows, as his fellow fighters fire their weapons, some of them yelling “Allahu Akbar!” (Allah is Great). We will fire the bullets that Assad did not, and we will liberate the Golan.”