A TOTAL of130 Irish soldiers are finalising plans to serve in the Golan Heights as tensions on the Israeli-Syrian border continue to escalate.
The soldiers attached to the 46th Infantry Group are currently conducting exercises in the Glen of Imaal in Co. Wicklow.
They will be deployed as part of the United Nations Disengagement Observation Force (UNDOF), based in the Golan Heights, and will operate from the Syrian side of the border from next month.
The Irish contingent includes a number of officers and soldiers who have previously served on Middle East peacekeeping duties.
They will take over duties from the 44th Infantry Group and will be the third Irish unit to deploy with UNDOF.
The troops current round of training allows the departing troops to face a series of scenarios involving simulated explosive strikes, air mobile helicopter drills, anti-ambush tactics, plus preparing detailed operational planning and medical evacuation exercises.
Syrian rebels, including fighters from an 30542360-linked group, have seized control of a border crossing with Israel in the Golan Heights after heavy clashes with President Bashar Assad's forces, activists and rebels said.
The capture of the post along Syria's de facto border in the Golan held more symbolic value than strategic, but rebels said it would provide relief to nearby villages that were under siege by government troops.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said an array of rebel fighters, including from the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and the Western-backed Free Syrian Army, took the crossing after heavy fighting that left at least 20 Syrian soldiers and an unknown number of rebels dead.
It said clashes also raged in the towns of Jaba, Tal Kroum and Rawadi in Quneitra province.
General Ibrahim Jbawi, the spokesman for the Free Syrian Army's southern front, as well as the Local Coordination Committees activist group, also confirmed the rebel gains.
Israel's military said earlier that an army officer stationed in the Golan Heights was wounded by errant fire from the Syrian side of the frontier. It did not immediately comment on the crossing takeover.
The army said the fire appeared to be spillover from heavy fighting inside Syria. From the Israeli side of the de facto border, large clouds of smoke could be seen, as gunfire and explosions sounded in the distance. Israeli soldiers observed the fighting.
Israel has avoided taking sides in the war, but has responded when the violence has spilled across the border. In its response, the military said it targeted two Syrian army positions and "hits were confirmed". It gave no further details.
Israel says it holds the Syrian government responsible for any violence that emanates from its territory.