Croatian soldiers will be pulled out of the Golan after reports surfaced this week that Croatian arms were being funneled to Syrian rebels, Zagreb said Thursday.
Croatia has denied reports that the country was arming opposition forces in Syria, but Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said the government had decided to pull its troops from the UN peacekeeping force as a precautionary measure.
The country has about 100 soldiers serving in the UN Disengagement Observer Force, or UNDOF, along the Israel-Syria armistice line in the Golan Heights.
“We can deny over and over again, but everyone has already read these reports and our soldiers are no longer safe,” Milanovic said at a cabinet meeting. “We want them to return home safe and sound.”
On Wednesday, The New York Times and Croatian media claimed that weapons left over from the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s had begun reaching forces attempting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad. The weapons included armor-piercing grenades, rocket launchers and recoilless cannons and had been sent via Jordan, according to the reports.
A number of countries, including Japan and Canada, have pulled troops out of the peacekeeping force as the conflict in Syria has grown more chaotic.
Earlier in the week, the UN said a member of the UNDOF force had gone missing, but gave no further details. According to information obtained by The Times of Israel, the missing man is Canadian Carl Campeau, a lawyer with the peacekeeping force.
On Wednesday, a Syrian shell landed on the Israeli side of the Golan, the latest in a series of incidents in which the country’s civil war has bled over the border.
Western governments have mostly declined to arm the Syrian rebels, but on Thursday, the US said it would begin sending non-lethal aid to the Free Syrian Army.
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