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Austrian Peacekepers leave Golan
Photo: AFP
UN Security Council renews Golan peacekeeping mission
UNSC renews for six months peacekeeping mission in Golan Heights; organization plans to increase UNDOF force, boost protection in light of Syrian fighting

The UN Security Council renewed for six months on Thursday a peacekeeping mission in the Israeli Golan Heights monitoring a decades-old truce between Israel and Syria that has been shaken by a spillover of violence from Syria's civil war.

 

The unanimously agreed resolution stresses the need for the peacekeepers, who currently just carry handguns, to boost their protection. Diplomats said troops would likely now get equipment such as flak jackets, armored vehicles and machine guns.

 

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The United Nations also plans to increase the force, which is known as UNDOF and has been operating with about 900 troops, to its authorized strength of 1,250.

 

The UNSC demanded a halt to all military activity by the Syrian government and opposition fighters on the Golan Heights and called for stepped up measures to protect UN peacekeepers who have been caught in crossfire.

 

The resolution, adopted unanimously by the council, extends the mandate of the UN force monitoring the disengagement of Israeli and Syrian forces in the Golan Heights until December 31.

 

The force, known as UNDOF, was established following intensified firing on the Israel-Syria border after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

 

For decades, the Golan Heights remained relatively quiet but in recent months, as the Syrian conflict escalated, it has become a battleground for Syrian troops and armed opposition groups.

 

Austria announced earlier this month that it would pull out its 377 peacekeepers from the 911-member UN force after fighting from the Syrian civil war threatened their positions. Fijian troops will replace them, but the UN is seeking additional troops to bring the UN force to its authorized strength of 1,250 troops.

 

The Security Council agreed with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's findings that ongoing military activities by any actor in the area of separation "continue to have the potential to escalate tensions" between Syria and Israel and pose a risk to the local civilian population and UN personnel on the ground.

 

The council stressed the need to enhance the safety and security of peacekeepers and endorsed the secretary-general's recommendation to enhance the forces' self-defense capabilities.

 

AP contributed to this report 

 

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פרסום ראשון: 06.27.13, 22:10
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