Ireland to withdraw soldiers from UN observer force on Israel-Syria border

Irish defense minister says decision to pull its 130 troops from UNDOF made following ‘assessment of sustainability of overseas commitments’; date to be discussed with UN officials

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

File: UN peacekeepers from Ireland patrol Israel's border with Syria, April 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
File: UN peacekeepers from Ireland patrol Israel's border with Syria, April 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Ireland will be withdrawing its forces from a United Nations peacekeeping force between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights, Irish officials said on Wednesday.

In a statement, Irish defense minister Micheál Martin informed the government that the 130 infantry troops stationed on the Syrian side of the border as part of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) will be withdrawn in the near future.

Martin, who is also the deputy head of government, said the decision was made based on an “assessment of the sustainability of the [Irish military’s] overseas commitments.”

The Irish Department of Defence said the troops’ withdrawal would ensure the Irish military can “fulfill their commitment to the EU Battlegroup,” a military unit subordinate to the defense arm of the European Union.

The exact date of the withdrawal was to be discussed with UN officials.

Martin said the Irish military would also discuss with UN officials maintaining some or all of its staff positions at the UNDOF headquarters, as well as possibly expanding troops to the UN peacekeeping force between Israel and Lebanon, known as UNIFIL.

UNDOF was dispatched to a buffer zone between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights in 1974 and tasked with monitoring a ceasefire following the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Its 1,000-strong force also includes members from Nepal, India, Uruguay, Fiji, Ghana, the Czech Republic and Bhutan.

Ireland first joined the peacekeeping force in June 2013, and later deployed additional troops following the withdrawal of Austrian troops in September 2013.

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