Security deterioration: UN peacekeepers pulling out from Golan Heights
JERUSALEM: UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights are
pulling out from its positions and a camp on the Syrian side of the
Syrian-Israeli border due to a severe deterioration of security in the region,
the United Nations said on Monday.
The decision to pull some blue-helmeted troops back to
the Israeli side of the Golan Heights comes after recent clashes between
members of the UN mission, known as UNDOF, and al-Qaeda-linked militants. The
skirmishes have been due to increasing spill-over from the three-year-old
Syrian civil war.
“The situation in UNDOF on the Syrian side and the
area of separation has deteriorated severely over the last several days,” UN
spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.
“Armed groups have made advances in the area of UNDOF
positions, posing a direct threat to the safety and security of the UN
peacekeepers along the ‘Bravo’ (Syrian) line and in Camp Faouar,” he said,
adding that all UN personnel in those positions have been moved to the “Alpha”
- or Israeli - side.
According to a diplomatic source, troops pulled back
from positions 10, 16, 31 and 37. “UNDOF continues to use all available assets
to carry out its mandated tasks in this exceptionally challenging environment,”
There was no suggestion
that UNDOF was shutting down. Late last month, 45 Fijian peacekeepers were
kidnapped by members of the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, Islamist militants
fighting the Syrian army. They were released last week. At the time the Fijians
were abducted, 72 UNDOF Filipino peacekeepers were trapped by the militants,
though they succeeded in escaping.