UN peacekeepers blue helmets.
(photo credit: Ali Hashisho / Reuters)
The United Nations has withdrawn peacekeepers from one of its stations along the
Golan Heights, after rebel forces took four Philippine members of its force on
Tuesday at that location, on the Syrian side of the border.
As of press
time, Syrian rebel forces were still holding the four members of the UN
Disengagement Observer Force.
The remaining peacekeepers from the
station, Position 86, were relocated, according to UN spokesman Martin Nesirky,
who spoke with reporters about the matter on Wednesday.
The UN is doing
its best to keep the rest of its peacekeepers along the Syrian border in the
Golan Heights, he told reporters. Another spokesperson assured The Jerusalem
that the forces were still there.
“UNDOF continues to do its utmost
to ensure the implementation of its mandate while mitigating risk to its
personnel,” Nesirky said.
“Everybody fully understands that they are
operating in an extremely dangerous and unusual environment. They have a mandate
that stretches back to the 1970s, and they have been carrying out that mandate
faithfully since that time.”
The peacekeepers “work in extremely
difficult circumstances,” he noted.
“Of course, if the security situation
is such that they need to be relocated, they will be relocated. And then, when
the situation allows, they will return,” he said.
He added that “the
Force is constantly reviewing and adjusting its security arrangements to address
the dynamic and rapidly evolving situation in its area of
The withdrawal from Position 86 comes at a time when Israel
is concerned about the future of the mission. In the last year, three of the six
nations that participate in the mission – Croatia, Japan and Canada – withdrew
their forces, leaving only some 1,000 peacekeepers along the
border.Austria has threatened
that it could similarly pull its
peacekeepers if the EU does not renew its arms embargo against Syria. It is
worried that the neutrality of its peacekeepers would be compromised if the
embargo were lifted and EU countries sent arms to rebel forces.
some concern that if Austria’s were to pull its 377 peacekeepers, UNDOF would
not have enough personnel on the border to be effective.
UNDOF’s mandate, which gets renewed every six months, will be up for renewal at
the end of June. Before that renewal, UN Secretary-General Ban- Ki Moon is
scheduled to complete a report on the UNDOF forces in the Golan Heights.