Israel threatened to attack Syrian tanks at border

When Assad moved armor into the Golan on Thursday, Israel warned it would ‘take action,’ UN document reveals

Smoke rises from a fire as a result of fighting in the Syrian village of Quneitra near the border with Israel, as seen from an observatory near the Quneitra crossing, Thursday, June 6 (photo credit: AP/Sebastian Scheiner)

Smoke rises from a fire as a result of fighting in the Syrian village of Quneitra near the border with Israel, as seen from an observatory near the Quneitra crossing, Thursday, June 6 (photo credit: AP/Sebastian Scheiner)

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A fierce battle last week between the Syrian army and rebels over the city of Quneitra, near the Israeli border on the Syrian Golan Heights, nearly brought Israel and Syria into open confrontation, according to a UN document leaked on Saturday by US-based blogger Nabil Abi Saab.

During the battle over Quneitra on Thursday, June 6, the Syrian army moved five tanks and five armored personnel carriers into the demilitarized zone separating Syria and Israel, in an effort to remove rebel forces that had taken over the Syrian-Israel border crossing, according to the document, dated the same day and presented to the UN Security Council by Herve Ladsous, UN under secretary general for peacekeeping operations.

Hundreds of UN Syrian Golan UN observers scramble to safety in Israel

DEBKAfile Special Report March 11, 2013, 5:25 AM (GMT+02:00)

UN observers take refuge in Israel in Golan dawn

 

The flight of hundreds of UN Disengagement and Observers Force (UNDOF) soldiers – Indian, Austrian and Filipino – in trucks and APCs from the Syrian side of Golan into Israel was in full swing early Monday, March 11. DEBKAfile quotes them as telling Israeli officers manning the Israeli side of the enclave that their commanders urged them to get out when they could because “We can no longer vouch for your safety.”
Many more UN troops are expected to make their way during the day to refuge in IDF camps across the border. Their officers, they said, had already placed their belongings aboard waiting vehicles ready to move across as soon as they received permission from their governments in Vienna, New Delhi and Manila or the UN Secretariat in New York.
Our military sources report that this mass exit signals the breakup of the 1,000-strong UNDOF which for 39 years manned the 8 sq. km separation zone between Syria and Israel. It was set up in 1974 to end the war of attrition fought  in the sequel to the Yom Kippur War between the IDF and Cuban armored brigades flown in from Angola by the Soviet Union to support the Syrian army.
The UN force’s collapse began with the Croatian government’s recall of its 100 troops last week.

As the peacemakers flee, Russia is today hardly likely to interfere with who gets to control the Golan separation zone which was split between Syria and Israel.

DEBKAfile reports three potential candidates are eying the sliver of land for different reasons:

1. The Martyrs of Yarmuk Islamist militia force of the Syrian rebel movement, which staked its claim last week by kidnapping 21 blue-and-white helmeted Filipino observers on the Golan and later releasing them in Jordan.

It is feared in Washington, Jerusalem and Amman, that Al Qaeda-associated forces will waste no time in overrunning the highly strategic patch of Golan borderland, armed with chemical weapons and even Scud D missiles captured from Syrian army bases. They may even be plotting an attack during President Barack Obama’s visits to Jerusalem and Amman, starting March 20.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that in sync with the UN observers’ escape, Israeli military reinforcements are massing on the Golan Syrian border.
2.  US, Jordan and/or Israel may step in to keep the Islamists out, using either large special forces units for ground raids or a swarm of armed drones.
3.  Hizballah militia units were spotted Sunday night on the move from south Lebanon toward the Lebanese-Syrian border areas abutting on the Golan separation zone.

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Syrian Rebels Hold UN Peacekeepers In Golan

Video: UN Peacekeepers ‘Detained’ In Golan

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Map of Golan Heights, SyriaThe Golan was occupied by Israel since 1967

Around 20 United Nations peacekeepers have been detained by an armed Syrian rebel brigade in the Golan Heights.

Syrian activists said the UN Disengagement Force (UNDOF) peacekeepers were from the Philippines, although the UN did not give the troops’ nationalities.

The UN Security Council has demanded their immediate release and the UN’s peacekeeping chief, Herve Ladsous, said negotiations were being held with the abductors.

In a rebel video uploaded to YouTube, a young man saying he was from the ‘Martyrs of Yarmouk’ brigade stood surrounded by several rebel fighters with assault rifles in front of two white armoured vehicles and a truck with UN markings.

The man, identified as Abu Kaid al Faleh, a spokesman for the brigade, said the peacekeepers would not be freed until Syrian regime forces pull out from the area.

“We call on the US and the United Nations and the Security Council … we call on them to get Assad forces out in order to release these forces,” he said.

“We will not release them until after the Assad forces have withdrawn from the border village of Jamla back to their positions, and if they do not withdraw back within 24 hours, we will deal with these forces as prisoners.”

The peacekeepers were detained shortly after British Foreign Secretary William Hague announced the UK would be providing military aid, including armoured vehicles, to Syrian opposition groups.

Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, who is president of the Security Council in March, said the captors had not clashed with the peacekeepers.

“My understanding is that they took over the trucks in which the UNDOF personnel was moving around,” he said after a closed doors briefing.

UN deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey told reporters the UN force were stopped by approximately 30 armed fighters.

“The UN observers were on a regular supply mission and were stopped near observation post 58, which had sustained damage and was evacuated this past weekend following heavy combat in close proximity, at Al Jamlah,” he said.

“The mission is dispatching a team to assess the situation and attempt a resolution.”

The UN has reported a growing number of incidents in the Golan, where it has deployed peacekeepers since 1974 observing a truce accord between Syria and Israel.

Mr Churkin said the capture of the peacekeepers was “particularly unacceptable and bizarre (because) UNDOF are unarmed and they have nothing to do with the situation in Syria”.

“They are there on a completely different mission so there is no reason at all under any circumstances, any kind of sick imagination to try to harm those people,” he said.

 

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