Thursday 21 September 2017

Irish soldier injured in Golan ambush

An Irish soldier received minor injuries in Syria yesterday after a Defence Forces patrol was ambushed in the increasingly tense Golan Heights.

It is the second time Irish peacekeepers have come under sustained fired this month.

The incident happened at 9.50am yesterday (local time) when 36 Irish peacekeepers in a five-vehicle convoy came under sustained fire while carrying out a routine operation 20km north of their base in Camp Faouar.

They came under heavy gunfire from what was described as "anti-government armed elements".

They returned fire using a heavy machine gun and then withdrew from the engagement while still exchanging fire with the insurgents.

During the firefight, one trooper received soft-tissue injuries -- not as a direct result of the gunfire but as he took cover in the vehicle.

But his injuries were not serious and after X-ray and treatment he is due to return to duty tomorrow.

As the five vehicles were withdrawing, one of them was more substantially damaged and lost a tyre. Despite the damage, the MOWAG armoured eight wheeler in the white UN colours was able to continue back to camp.

"It has not yet been established if the damage to the vehicle was caused by hostile rounds," according to the Defence Forces spokesman Commt Denis Hanley who is in the region.

An investigation is under way. One element of the investigation is to establish if the wheel was damaged by an improvised explosive device, which raises the prospect the incident was part of a carefully planned ambush.

The troops are part of a deployment of 119 members of the Defence Forces in the service with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force in Syria.

During the incident, the Irish troopers were able to return fire remotely using a heavy machine gun.

The incident was the second this month. On November 5 more than a dozen artillery rounds were fired on the Irish convoy when they got caught up in a "firefight" between government and anti-government forces. No one was injured.

Jerome Reilly

Irish Independent

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