Ireland agrees to send peacekeepers to Golan

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 18, 2013 11:26 AM
Ireland agrees to send peacekeepers to Golan

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland is to send 114 peacekeepers to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to help monitor a decades-old truce between Israel and Syria that has been shaken by a spillover of violence from Syria's civil war.

Nepal is also transferring a company of its troops from the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Lebanon to the Golan Heights, a spokesman for the Lebanon mission said this week.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in a 1967 war, and the countries technically remain at war. Syrian troops are not allowed in an area of separation under a 1973 ceasefire formalized in 1974.

Peacekeepers have been caught in the middle of fighting between Syrian troops and rebels in the area of separation, which had been largely quiet since the ceasefire. Stray shells and bullets also have landed on the Israeli-controlled side and Israeli troops have fired into Syria in response.

Ireland and Nepal's contribution will help boost the force, which is known as UNDOF, to its authorized strength of 1,250. It had been operating below that strength with about 900 troops.

"It is important that UNDOF has at its disposal all necessary means and resources to carry out its mandate safely and securely," Irish Defense Minister Alan Shatter said. Parliament backed the plan on Thursday.

Japan and Croatia have withdrawn troops from UNDOF due to the violence and Austria is bringing home its contingent. About 500 Fijian troops will fill the gap left by those withdrawals. The Philippines already has some 340 troops in UNDOF along with nearly 200 troops from India.

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The United Nations has been keen for Nordic countries to contribute because it needs Alpine troops, but Sweden has decided not to participate in the monitoring force, a Foreign Ministry official said.

(Reporting by Sam Cage in Dublin and Niklas Pollard in Stockholm; Editing by Alison Williams)