|Photo by: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun|
UN sees risk of escalation in Syria-Israel tensions
By HERB KEINON AND REUTERS
US and Russian-drafted UN Security Council resolution warns tensions between Israel, Syria could escalate in Golan.
A US- and Russian-drafted UN Security Council resolution to extend a
peacekeeping mission in the demilitarized zone between Syria and Israel warns
that tensions between the neighbors could escalate as Syria’s civil war spills
into the area.
The draft resolution, which is due to be adopted by the
15-member council on Wednesday, expresses concern about the presence of the
Syrian army, armed opposition groups and unauthorized military equipment in the
so-called “area of separation.”
Syrian troops are not allowed in the area
of separation between Israel and Syria under a 1973 cease-fire formalized in
1974 and supervised by the UN Disengagement Observer Force. The draft text
proposes extending UNDOF’s mandate for six months, something that has been done
ever since the force was established in 1974.
Syria’s 20-month civil war
recently began to spill over into the zone, which had been largely quiet since
the 1973 cease-fire. Stray shells and bullets have landed on the
Israeli-controlled side and Israeli troops have fired shells into Syria in
Last month a convoy of Austrian UN peacekeepers came under fire
near the Damascus airport. The draft Security Council resolution condemns the
incident in which it says five peacekeepers were injured. Two of the
peacekeepers were flown to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa for
“Recent incidents across the cease-fire line have shown the
potential for escalation of tensions between Israel and the Syrian Arab
Republic, and jeopardize the cease-fire between the two countries,” says the
draft obtained by Reuters on Monday.
Israeli officials agreed with this
assessment, with one source saying Jerusalem is concerned about the possible
“fragmentation” of Syria, and about who will then move into the area near the
The officials said Israel was keen on UNDOF remaining in place,
especially now, to ensure the situation along the border does not get out of
control and that whoever eventually takes control of the frontier will act
UNDOF is made up of some 1,035 troops from five countries:
Austria, Croatia, India, Japan and the Philippines.
Israeli officials say
the fighting in Syria is a major concern to the countries who make up the UN
force, and that Japan has recently expressed its interest in withdrawing its
The draft resolution that will be brought to the Security
Council agrees with UN Secretary-General Ban Kimoon’s “finding that the military
operations carried out by the Syrian Arab Armed Forces have affected adversely
the efforts of UNDOF to effectively carry out the mandated tasks.”
than 40,000 people have been killed in Syria since a government crackdown on
peaceful pro-democracy protests in March 2011 grew into a civil war.
Security Council has been unsuccessful in taking any meaningful action to end
the war. Veto-holding powers Russia and China refuse to condemn Syria’s
President Bashar Assad or support sanctions.