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Austrian soldiers wounded in Syria taken to Israel
November 30, 2012 13:15
Two peacekeeping soldiers injured in crossfire between Syrian government, rebels on way to Damascus airport; airlifted to Haifa.
Peacekeeping troops with UNDOF

UN peacekeeping troops Syria-Israel 370. (photo credit:REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

Two Austrian peacekeeping soldiers wounded in crossfire in Syria were transferred to Israel for treatment on Friday, a hospital spokesman said, describing their condition as not life-threatening.

The two, members of the United Nations monitoring force that observes a truce between Israel and Syria, were on their way to Damascus airport for a flight home when their vehicle was caught in crossfire between Syrian government and rebel forces.

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Syrian state television said on Thursday the two were wounded by gunfire when rebels attacked an army position near the airport road.

"The two soldiers are in their 20s and suffered gunshot wounds. One was hit in the chest and is in moderate condition, and the other to the hand, and he is lightly hurt," said David Ratner, a spokesman for Rambam Medical Center in Haifa.

The two crossed by land from Syria into the Golan Heights from where they were flown by an Israeli military helicopter to the hospital in the northern Israeli port city, he said.

"We are a designated hospital to care for injured United Nations soldiers in the region but this is the first time that we have had to deal with anybody hurt in the internal Syrian conflict," Ratner added.

The UN peacekeeping force monitors an Israeli-Syrian ceasefire which has been in place since the 1970s.

Technically, Syria and Israel are at war, but the Golan, a strategic plateau, has been mostly quiet for decades.

Stray shells and bullets from the internal Syrian strife have however landed on the Israeli-controlled side of the frontier in recent weeks and Israeli troops have fired artillery shells into Syria in response.
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