Imperiled U.N. peacekeepers leave Syrian Golan for Israel

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — United Nations peacekeeping forces and support staff have been relocated from the Syrian side of the Golan Heights to Israel.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a statement Monday said the situation of the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force has “deteriorated severely over the last several days.” The force was put into place in May 1974 on the border between Syria and Israel to maintain a cease-fire between the two countries.

“Arrmed groups have made advances in the area of UNDOF positions, posing a direct threat to the safety and security of the U.N. Peacekeepers,” Ban’s statement said.

The peacekeepers also reportedly evacuated their equipment to Israel from Camp Faouar, the force’s main headquarters, located in Syria, near the Quneitra crossing.

Syrian rebels have gained control of nearly the entire border between Israel and Syria, according to reports.

Some 41 Fiji peacekeepers for the United Nations who surrendered to rebels from the al-Nusra Brigade, which has ties to al-Qaida, were released last week after being held captive for more than two weeks.

“UNDOF continues to use all available assets to carry out its mandated tasks in this exceptionally challenging environment,” the statement concluded.