Syrian rebels threaten UN in bid to block Assad’s tanks
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Syrian rebels threaten UN in bid to block Assad’s tanks

Opposition fighters near the Israeli border will strike peacekeepers if they fail to uphold buffer zone, statement warns

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

A UN peacekeeper from India waves while driving a UN armored vehicle as it leaves from the UNDOF Ziouani camp to cross to Syria at the Quneitra Crossing between Syria and the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, Friday, March 8, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Ariel Schalit)
A UN peacekeeper from India waves while driving a UN armored vehicle as it leaves from the UNDOF Ziouani camp to cross to Syria at the Quneitra Crossing between Syria and the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, Friday, March 8, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Ariel Schalit)

As fighting continued to rage between government and opposition forces along the Syrian border with Israel, rebel groups threatened to target UN forces deployed on the Golan Heights if regime tanks were not prevented from entering the demilitarized zone.

A letter published Monday night on the Facebook page of the rebel groups fighting in the Syrian villages of Breiqa and Bir Ajam warned that UN forces would be hit if Syrian army tanks continued to enter the demilitarized zone where the villages are located. The message was addressed to the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), a 1,250-strong force tasked with upholding the ceasefire agreement between Israel and Syria of 1974.

“To the UNDOF forces in Breiqa, Bir Ajam and Ruweihina, we hereby inform you that tanks are not allowed to enter the demilitarized zone. You must prevent them from doing so, and if they enter the demilitarized zone we will not be responsible for our actions against you. Forewarned is forearmed,” read the statement.

According to the Agreement of Disengagement signed between Israel and Syria in May 1974, following the Yom Kippur War, Syrian forces are banned from entering an ِِِِArea of Separation east of the Purple Line, Syria’s border with Israel, where the villages are located.

In May, four Filipino UNDOF troops were kidnapped by the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade near the Israeli border. The opposition group also succeeded in capturing two advanced UN armored personnel carriers. A second attack against an UNDOF post near the town of Quneitra led Austria to pull out its contingent of 377 troops in early July.

Currently, UNDOF’s 1,250-strong force comprises mainly troops from Fiji, the Philippines, Nepal and India.

No comment was forthcoming from UNDOF at the time of publication.

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