Report: Israeli military prevented Irish U.N. peacekeepers’ deaths

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Irish soldiers serving in the Golan Heights would have been killed or taken hostage by Syrian rebels if it wasn’t for the military intervention of the Israeli army, an Irish newspaper reported.

The troops were assisted by Israeli soldiers last week as they attempted to rescue a contingent of Filipino peacekeepers who were surrounded and in a gun battle with the Islamist rebels, the Irish Independent reported Sunday.


Unnamed senior sources told the newspaper that there would “almost certainly” have been U.N. casualties or deaths without the Israeli help, described as “decisive.”

The Israel Defense Forces reportedly was able to assist during the Aug. 28 siege because it has military posts on high areas overlooking the United Nations bases in Quneitra, located on the border between Israel and Syria.

The Israelis, according to the Independent, helped guide the Irish troops to avoid the rebels, and also may have fired at the rebel troops to halt their attacks on the Filipino and Irish soldiers.

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said over the weekend that he did not want to see the country’s U.N. troops “being drawn into a Syrian civil war.”

He added, however, that he would not unilaterally withdraw Irish troops. “Support for the U.N. is a cornerstone of Irish foreign policy and any decision will be made in partnership with them,” he said.

A detachment of 41 Fijian soldiers who surrendered to the rebels from the al-Nusra Brigade, with ties to Al-Qaida, and were captured after they obeyed a U.N. order to surrender, remain in captivity. It is not known where they are being held.