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UN Tells Syrian Forces to Leave Buffer Zone on Israel Border

AP Photo
Syrian Democratic Forces, via AP

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The UN Security Council on Thursday strongly condemned fighting in the buffer zone between Syria and Israel and urged the Syrian government and opposition groups to withdraw from the area which is patrolled by UN peacekeepers.

A resolution sponsored by Russia and the United States and adopted unanimously Thursday by the UN Security Council extends the mandate of the peacekeeping mission known as UNDOF until Dececember 31.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war and later extended civil law over the strategic plateau overlooking northern Israel, in a move that is not internationally recognized.

The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force has patrolled the buffer zone between Syria and Israel since 1974, a year after the 1973 Yom Kippur War. For nearly four decades UNDOF helped enforce a stable truce between the two countries but the Syrian war spilled into the zone.

The six-year conflict has not only seen some intense fighting in the buffer zone but the abduction of peacekeepers by al-Qaeda-linked anti-Syrian government militants, and other attacks that prompted several countries to withdraw their soldiers.

Israel has tried to stay out of the six-year civil war in Syria and refrained from taking sides, but has responded to spillover fire on numerous occasions. The Israeli military said Sunday it attacked a series of targets belonging to the Syrian military, after several projectiles from Syria landed in the Golan Heights for a second day.

The resolution backed Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ findings that ongoing military activities in the area of separation have the potential to escalate tensions and jeopardize the cease-fire between Israel and Syria, and pose risks to civilians and UN personnel on the ground.

According to the UN peacekeeping department, the UNDOF mission has 959 personnel including 828 military.

The resolution condemned the use of heavy weapons, including tanks, by both the Syrian armed forces and armed groups in the area of separation.

It underscored the need for UNDOF to have the sophisticated equipment and technology to effectively monitor the area of separation and cease-fire line including the capability to counter improvised explosive devices and “a sense and warn system, to ensure the safety and security of UNDOF personnel and equipment.”

The Security Council urged secretary-general Gutteres “to accelerate the development of proposals for such technologies.”

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