UN demands Syrian government, opposition halt all military activity in Golan Heights


Security Council extends mandate of peacekeeping force deployed on Israeli-Syrian border, calls for stepped up measures to protect troops.

The UN Security Council has 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 peacekeepers who have been caught in crossfire.

A resolution adopted unanimously by the council on Thursday extended the mandate of the UN force monitoring the disengagement of Israeli and Syrian forces in the Golan Heights until December 31.

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

Austria announced earlier this month it would pull out its peacekeepers from the UN force after the Syrian civil war threatened their positions at the Quneitra border crossing.

Syrian rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar Assad battled for control of the only border crossing to Israel on June 6. Rebels first seized the crossing before Assad’s forces regained control amid heavy fighting.

The rarely used crossing, in a UN-patrolled demilitarized zone on the Golan Heights, is the only transit point between Syrian and Israeli disengagement lines set in 1974.

The Austrian troops, who completed their withdrawal on Wendesday, are expected to be replaced with units from Fiji, the first of which are scheduled to arrive in Israel by the end of the month before joining the peacekeeping force. Until then the Philippine force, which makes up most of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), will cover the area that was manned by the Austrians.

The UN is seeking additional soldiers to bring the UN force to its authorized strength of 1,250 troops.

The council warned that military activity can escalate Israeli-Syrian tensions. 



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