Will the UN Return Forces to the Golan Heights?

UN Security Council discusses return and new security steps, month after UNDOF fled from Syrian rebels to Israeli side of the Golan.

Ari Yashar,

UN soldier in Golan Heights (file)
UN soldier in Golan Heights (file)
Flash 90

The UN Security Council on Monday held an assessment of the situation in the Golan Heights, and discussed the possibility of returning UN forces to the Syrian side of the Golan after they fled to the Israeli side a month ago.

Speaking at the UN headquarters after the meeting, Argentinian Ambassador to the UN Maria Cristina Perceval told the Filipino-based Rappler that there is no definite timeline for the return of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) to the area.

Forces were pulled after Syrian rebel forces took over UN positions, surrounding Filipino forces who later managed to escape, and kidnapping over 40 Fijian soldiers who were later released. The incident led the Philippines to pull its forces from the Golan.

Regarding the return of forces to the volatile Syrian-side, Perceval said "they have the plan. (It) depends on the circumstances but obviously, the commitment is to return the first installation of the UNDOF."

As part of such a return, the meeting discussed the possibility of introducing drones and satellite imagery to help secure the UN peacekeepers, although the new technology has not been agreed on yet.

"This is in conversation with the two parties (Israel and Syria). ...We reiterate especially in this delicate situation that the two parties have to agree. Also, (on) what technology is going to be used," said Perceval.

The Argentinian ambassador added that the UN, Syria and Israel are continuing to look for the UN weapons, equipment and vehicles that Al Qaeda-linked Al Nusra fighters seized from the Fijian forces when they captured them, noting "it’s very difficult because they (rebels) change the characteristics of the vehicles."

Israel's border with Syria on the Golan has remained tense, with shells frequently streaking into Israeli territory in either a spillover of the fierce civil war, or attempts to attack Israel under cover of the fighting.

Likewise Israel last month was forced to shoot down a rogue Syrian Army fighter jet near the Golan Heights with a patriot missile, and the month before shot down a Syrian drone that strayed into Israeli airspace.