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UN Council backs machine guns for Golan peacekeepers

An Israeli army Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) maneuvers during a military exercise near the northern border with Syria on June 25, 2013 in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights. INQUIRER file photo

UNITED NATIONS—The UN Security Council on Thursday backed UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights carrying machine guns, as fallout from the Syria war increases in the ceasefire zone.

The council passed a resolution to extend the mandate of the force, where the Philippines has the biggest contingent, until the end of the year. It also called on Syrian government and opposition fighters to stay out of the zone where peacekeepers monitor a three-decade-old ceasefire between Syria and Israel.

The 15-member council strongly condemned three abductions of UN peacekeepers in the Golan since March and expressed “grave concern” at violations of the 1974 ceasefire accord.

Members of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) and the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) were kidnapped by different opposition groups between March and May.

Two peacekeepers have been wounded in shelling as President Bashar al-Assad’s forces attack rebels in the ceasefire zone.

The council stressed the “need to enhance the safety and security” of peacekeepers, and endorsed UN leader Ban Ki-moon’s changes to the mission’s operations to “enhance the self-defense capabilities of UNDOF.”

The council resolution did not set out the measures. But UN officials and diplomats say that UNDOF peacekeepers, who traditionally only carry very light arms, will get machine guns, extra body armor and more armored vehicles.

UNDOF has already halted night patrols in the Golan and it will close some observation posts and strengthen those that stay open.

Japan and Croatia have withdrawn their UNDOF contingents and Austria is pulling out its 377 troops by the end of July. That leaves about 340 Filipino troops and 190 Indians in the force.

Fiji has started sending 500 troops that will get UNDOF back above 900 soldiers. But the UN peacekeeping department is looking for more to get it to 1,250.

Britain’s UN ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, Security Council president for June, said the UN was negotiating with European countries, among others.

Diplomats said Scandinavian countries are considering sending troops to the Golan which had been relatively quiet until the Syrian conflict started in March 2011.

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Tags: Armed conflict , Filipino peacekeepers , Golan Heights , Israel , Syria , UN

  • opinyonlangpo

    If these peacekeepers are caught in the war, which of the Syrian warring parties they will side? If Israel decide to defend its occupied borders from the retreating Syrian rebel forces, they will be caught in between. “Peacekeepers”, there should be peace to keep. That area is now a potential war zone.

    • kanoy

      join the military serve your country learn through experience–then blog how the military operates

      the Philippines has the biggest contingent, until the end of the year.

      That leaves about 340 Filipino troops and 190 Indians in the force

      Fiji has started sending more than 500 troops that will get UNDOF back above 900 soldiers

      Fiji will supply 170 soldiers this month to replace Japanese and Croatian soldiers who have left in previous weeks. Diplomats said it has also offered to replace the 370 soldiers that Austria is withdrawing.

      39 years tiny Fiji has been in the G.H. NO ”antitank antiaircraft” guns like AQUINO wants

      Britain’s UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant did not give numbers but confirmed there would be a “substantial inflow” of Fijian troops to the force, which has monitored a ceasefire between Syria and Israel in the Golan since 1974

      • opinyonlangpo

        *deleted. Double post.

      • opinyonlangpo

        I am an honorary officer of our royal air force although I was never called for active duty. I am exposed though to so many military installations around the world to know whats going on in it, never in a war zone. The Philippine forces went there before the Syrian civil war broke out. I believe peacekeepers are lightly armed only for self defense and not to fight a war. The Fiji forces know the situation beforehand and are prepared for it, thats the big difference.

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