by WorldTribune Staff, November 15, 2016
A group of UN peacekeepers returned to the Syrian side of the Golan Heights on Nov. 14, two years after Al Qaida-linked Syrian rebels captured dozens of peacekeepers.
UN spokesman Farhan Haq said more troops from the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) would return to camp Faouar in Syria this week and that the governments in Israel and Syria supported the move.
“The total number of troops that deployed to Camp Faouar this morning is 127 and more are expected to join in a week,” said Haq, according to AFP.
“For now… they will perform as many of the mandated tasks as they can, security conditions permitting,” he added.
In 2014, the UN forces fled to the Syrian side of the Golan Heights amid clashes with Nusra Front, which kidnapped more than 40 Fijian UNDOF troops. They were released unharmed two weeks later.
Nusra Front seized UN weapons, equipment and uniforms in a campaign that saw the Syrian Golan Heights fall completely into the terror group’s hands.
Some 510 square kilometers of the Golan remain on the Syrian side of the ceasefire line, with UNDOF overseeing a buffer zone stretching some 70 kilometers from Lebanon in the north to Jordan in the south.
“The situation in the area is dramatically different from what it was prior to 2014 and the mission’s concept of operations has been adjusted accordingly,” Haq said. “But we are going to incrementally return back.”