UNDOF peacekeepers in the Golan 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The head of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights (UNDOF), Maj.-Gen. Francis Vib-Sanziri, died suddenly on Friday at the age of 62.
Originally from Ghana, Vib-Sanziri was appointed to lead UNDOF in October 2017 and reportedly died of a heart attack while in Eilat. He is survived by his wife and two daughters.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply saddened” at Vib-Sanziri’s sudden death, saying that he would “be remembered for his exemplary career and leadership at the service of United Nations Peacekeeping, including with UNIFIL, UNAMIR, UNMIL and UNAMSIL.”
The IDF also expressed their condolences over his death on Saturday night, saying in a statement that “IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, IDF officers, and soldiers are deeply saddened by the sudden loss of the UNDOF head Major General Francis Vib-Sanziri. His hard work and unwavering commitment to regional stability were truly appreciated. He will be sorely missed.”
Israeli envoy to the UN, Danny Danon, eulogized Vib-Sanziri saying in a statement that “his experience and leadership led UNDOF through a complicated and challenging period that included the Iranian entrenchment in Syria and Hezbollah actions that challenged the force in their work.”
According to the Israeli Mission to the UN, Danon also sent a letter of condolence to the general’s family in the name of the State of Israel.
His death comes several months after UNDOF troops deployed to the Syrian Golan and Israel reopened the Quneitra border crossing in the Golan Heights, four years after it was closed after UN observers fled to the fighting in the Syrian civil war.
His death also came just weeks after the United States recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights – some 1,200 square kilometers captured by the IDF from Syria during the Six Day War in 1967. Under the 1974 ceasefire accord signed following the Yom Kippur War the previous year established a buffer zone between the two enemy countries where UNDOF troops have since patrolled.
US President Donald Trump tweeted in late March that “After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!”
Syria slammed Trump’s move, calling it “irresponsible” and that it “confirms the blind bias of the United States to the Zionist entity.”
Syria’s state news agency SANA quoted a senior foreign ministry source as saying that Syria would recover the Golan Heights “through all available means” and that Trump’s move wouldn’t change “the fact that the Golan was and will remain Arab and Syrian.”
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>