IDF forces played a crucial role in helping Irish soldiers rescue UN troops from the clutches of Syrian jihadists in a fierce clash on the border with Israel last week.
Senior military sources said that Irish soldiers would have been killed or taken captive if it weren’t for action taken by the IDF on August 30 during a mission to evacuate dozens of Filipino soldiers who were surrounded by a larger force of militants, the Irish Independent reported on Sunday.
Israel reportedly guided the Irish soldiers in their charge to save the trapped members of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, helping them to steer away from concentrations of militant units who would have been able to outgun the Irish force. There were also unconfirmed reports that the IDF fired directly at militant positions during the operation.
Under cover of darkness, 40 Filipino peacekeepers who were surrounded and came under fire by Syrian rebels in the Golan Heights made their overnight daring escape at the end of August. Forty-four Fijian soldiers remained in the hands of the insurgents.
After coming under rebel attack at the end of last month, the group of Filipino peacekeepers was successfully escorted out of UN encampment in Breiqa by Irish and Filipino forces on board armored vehicles.
The Fijian soldiers, who were apparently ordered to lay down their arms by the UN peacekeeping commander in the Golan Heights, surrendered to the Al-Nusra front and are still being held captive at an unknown location.
According to the report, the al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra has said it intends to try the men under Sharia law.
Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan made it clear that Ireland does not want to get caught up in the regional conflict as the UN reassesses its peacekeeping role in the area.
“The timescale of the UN review of the ongoing viability of the mission is short-term and urgent,” he said. “We don’t want to see Irish troops or the UN contingent being drawn into a Syrian civil war.”
However, despite the increasing dangers and the close escape, Ireland still does not intend to withdraw from its commitment to the UN mission. “Support for the UN is a cornerstone of Irish foreign policy and any decision will be made in partnership with them,” Flanagan said.
The UN mission has 1,223 troops from six countries: Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, Netherlands and the Philippines. A number of countries has withdrawn their peacekeepers due to the escalating violence.
Philippine officials said Filipino forces would remain in Golan until their mission ends in October, adding they would not be withdrawn prematurely following the rebel attacks and the capture of the Fijian peacekeepers.
On August 23, the Philippine Defense Department announced that it would withdraw the 331-strong Filipino contingent serving as part of the UNDOF mission in the Golan Heights at the end of their tour of duty in October due to the worsening security situation.