Irish soldiers head for peace-keeping mission on Syrian border
More than 100 Irish soldiers have been deployed for a six-month stint in the Golan Heights.
The troops from the 43rd Infantry Group of the Irish Defence Forces will form part of a UN peacekeeping mission on the heavily-fortified border between Syria and Israel.
They will join units from Fiji, India and the Philippines as part of the UN's disengagement observation force (UNDOF), maintaining an area of separation between the two countries.
Defence Minister Alan Shatter said: "Helping to maintain the 40-year-old ceasefire between Israel and Syria represents an important contribution to preventing further instability in this most troubled region, particularly at this time of significant conflict in Syria."
The UN monitoring operation at the Golan Heights has been ongoing since 1974. Irish Defence Forces will not be involved in the ongoing Syrian civil war.
The deployment was approved by the Government in July after a number of countries including Japan and Austria withdrew troops because of the deteriorating situation in war-torn Syria.
Most of the Irish soldiers flew out from Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, to Beirut, Lebanon, on Friday.
At first light yesterday, the contingent of 89 personnel moved through Lebanon and Syria in an armed convoy.
They arrived at the Camp Faouar headquarters on the Golan Heights last night and joined an advance party of 26 soldiers who had deployed to Syria September 21.
Mr Shatter added: "The successful deployment of the contingent today represents the completion of the full deployment of the Defence Forces in Golan and will help reinforce UNDOF and secure the mission in undertaking its difficult but important role in the Golan Heights.
"I would like to take this opportunity to wish them well on their tour of duty."
The soldiers had been due to deploy three weeks ago but were delayed at the request of the UN for administrative reasons.
Separately, Mr Shatter welcomed the unanimous adoption of the UN Security Council resolution on the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons.
He said: "The destruction of these heinous weapons is a vital step forward in supporting peace and security in the region, and represents a welcome confirmation of the important role which the UN plays in ensuring collective security across the globe.
"What we now need is a real effort to deliver peace and security to the people of Syria and an end to the current conflict there."
By Lesley-Anne McKeown