The United Nations is beefing up its Israeli-Syrian ceasefire monitoring forces in the Golan Heights due to increasing threats amid the escalating Syrian civil war.
UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said Friday that extra armored cars would be sent to “specific areas” in the Golan where tensions escalated in recent months, AFP reported.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly warned that Syrian troops’ presence in the Golan Heights are a violation of the 1974 ceasefire agreement between Damascus and Jerusalem. He has also called for a contingency plan in case the Syrian conflict spins out of control.
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 Ban’s report earlier in the week. The UN reinforcements would also be able to provide better political analysis, Ladsous added.
Israel Radio added that four Austrian members of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) were hit en route to Damascus last week.
The UNDOF countries — Austria, Croatia, India, Japan and Philippines provide the bulk of the troops in force — are to meet next week ahead of the UN Security Council’s renewal of the force’s mandate.
Syrian fighters and the IDF have recently exchanged fire across the ceasefire line. Jerusalem has lodged several complaints with the UN after Syrian mortars and other weapons were fired into Israeli territory, likely a case of the conflict spilling across the border. Israel retaliated by firing warning shots into Syrian territory a few times.
Another concern in the ongoing Syrian conflict is that President Bashar Assad would use chemical weapons against civilians.
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.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 War; it later annexed the territory.