Fiji Troops Replace Austria in Golan Heights UN Force
A force of 170 soldiers from Fiji will replace Austrian troops in the United Nations peacekeeping force monitoring the Golan Heights buffer zone.
The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) has been stationed on the Israel-Syrian border since the ceasefire declared following the 1973 war.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the Security Council last week to expand the force to 1,250 troops. He also recommended that equipment for UNDOF be upgraded in order to enable the force to improve its ability to protect itself.
As tensions have escalated with the spillover of military action from the civil war in Syria, various nations have pulled their troops from the force.
Among them was Austria, a major pillar of the force and one that was not expected to pull its troops.
Nevertheless, last week Austrian soldiers left the area. The Philippines has subsequently announced that it, too, will withdraw its forces following another escalation of military activity in the area.
Ban warned in a statement following Austria's withdrawal that the mass exodus of troops from the peacekeeper force seriously jeopardizes the ceasefire agreement between Israel and Syria.
Al Qaeda-linked Syrian rebels – and the Hizbullah terrorists fighting for Assad who are generously funded and sponsored by Iran -- both see the Israeli-Syrian Quneitra border crossing as a valuable strategic target.
The Islamist rebel fighters have bluntly expressed the intention of taking the Golan Heights from Israel once the civil war in Syria is over.