UN pulling out peacekeepers from Syrian side of Golan Heights

By JPOST.COM STAFF, REUTERS
September 15, 2014 16:49

A UN source told CNN that the troops, who were seen crossing into the Israeli-controlled portion of the plateau, were being pulled out for their safety.

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Quneitra

A UN observation tower is seen overlooking Syria, next to the Quneitra border crossing between the Golan Heights in Israel and Syria.. (photo credit:REUTERS)

UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights are being relocated from four positions and one camp on the Syrian side of the Syrian-Israeli border, a diplomatic source said on Monday after recent clashes with al-Qaida-linked militants.

"Staff in UN positions 10, 16, 31 and 37, as well as Camp Faouar on the (Syrian) side are being relocated," the source told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

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There was no suggestion that the UN peacekeeping mission in the Golan Heights, known as UNDOF, was shutting down. Last month 45 UNDOF peacekeepers were kidnapped by Islamist militants fighting the Syrian army. They were released last week.

A UN source told the network that the troops, who were seen crossing into the Israeli-controlled portion of the plateau, were being pulled out for their safety.

Syria's three-year civil war reached the frontier with Israel last month when Islamist fighters overran a crossing point in the line that has separated Israelis from Syrians in the Golan Heights since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

The fighters then turned on the UN blue helmets from a peacekeeping force comprised of over 40 Fijians that has patrolled the ceasefire line for 40 years. After the Fijians were captured, more than 70 Filipinos spent two days besieged at two locations before reaching safety.

The peacekeepers make up the UN Disengagement Observer Force, an outfit of 1,250 soldiers from Fiji, the Philippines, India, Nepal, Ireland, and Holland.

Last year, Austria announced it was calling its peacekeepers back home after gunfire between rebel forces and the military broke out on the Golan Heights.

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