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Golan Peacekeepers to Get Machine Guns

UNDOF peacekeepers will get machine guns, extra body armor and more armored vehicles.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 6/27/2013, 7:41 PM

Arab women in front of UN sign
Arab women in front of UN sign
Flash 90

The UN Security Council on Thursday backed UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights carrying machine guns, as fallout from the Syria war increases in the ceasefire zone, AFP reported.

The 15-member council passed a resolution to extend the mandate of the force, which monitors a three-decade-old ceasefire between Syria and Israel, but which called on Syrian government and opposition fighters to stay out of the zone.

The council strongly condemned three abductions of UN peacekeepers in the Golan since March and expressed "grave concern" at violations of the 1974 ceasefire accord.

Members of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) and the UN Truce Supervision Organization were kidnapped by different opposition groups between March and May.

Two peacekeepers have been wounded in shelling as President Bashar al-Assad's forces attack rebels in the ceasefire zone.

The council stressed the "need to enhance the safety and security" of peacekeepers, and endorsed UN leader Ban Ki-moon's changes to the mission's operations to "enhance the self-defense capabilities of UNDOF."

The council resolution did not set out the measures, according to AFP. But UN officials and diplomats say that UNDOF peacekeepers, who traditionally only carry very light arms, will get machine guns, extra body armor and more armored vehicles.

UNDOF has already halted night patrols in the Golan and it will close some observation posts and strengthen those that stay open.