Japan plans to recall its troops stationed in the Golan Heights as part of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, citing concerns over the deteriorating security situation in Syria, Japanese media reported Tuesday.
Japan currently stations 47 troops along the border between Israel and Syria, which has seen sporadic cross border fire as Syria’s civil war bleeds into Israeli territory. The UN recently said it would beef up its UNDOF force, due to increasing threats on the unarmed observers.
According to a report in the Tokyo daily Yomiuri Shimbun, the Japanese government has determined that the safety of the troops has become an issue and they will be recalled, pending a final decision later in December.
The Japanese contingent, part of the multinational, 1,000 strong UN force stationed along the Israeli-Syrian border, was scheduled to be rotated home in March 2013.
Though mortars and bullets have been fired into Israel, no Israeli soldiers have been injured. In November, Israel fired a missile at a Syrian artillery crew after a mortar hit an IDF position.
Unarmed UN observers have been threatened, and have had to provide medical treatment to Syrian forces who clashed with the opposition in the demilitarized zone, according to a report last week by UN chief Ban Ki-moon.
UNDOF was established by the UN on May 31, 1974 via Security Council resolution 350, following the agreed disengagement of the Israeli and Syrian forces in the Golan Heights in the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Its main role is ensuring the ceasefire and supervising the disengagement agreement between the two countries, according to the UN body’s website.