Friday 26 December 2014

Irish troops step up warzone patrol

Published 30/08/2014 | 02:30

Israeli soldiers observe the Syrian side of the Quneitra border crossing between the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights and Syria.
Israeli soldiers observe the Syrian side of the Quneitra border crossing between the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights and Syria.

Irish troops are heavily involved in increased patrolling in the conflict-torn buffer zone on the Golan Heights, as searches are stepped up for 43 kidnapped Fijian peacekeepers.

The Irish group secured a safe route for a group of at least 30 Filipino soldiers, who were trying to move out of an United Nations position in the zone and provided them with armoured protection as they returned to the force headquarters at Camp Faouar.

The 130-strong Irish contingent act as the reserve company for Undof, the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, and one of its main tasks is to provide the required protection for the mission.

Three of the Irish peacekeepers, who had to take shelter in another Undof camp after firing broke out while they were on patrol on Wednesday, have now returned to join their contingent at Camp Fouar.

The three were in groundhog - taking cover in heavily reinforced shelters - for a total of 14 hours at Camp Zouani, a large logistics base, on the Israeli side of the border with Syria, and had to wait there for a lull in the fighting.

The Defence Forces said last night that all Irish personnel in the 44th infantry group and their equipment were safe.

But they remain on high alert in preparation for further tasks from the force commander, Major General Iqbal Singh Singha.

Throughout yesterday they carried out regular patrols as negotiations continued to secure the safe release of the kidnapped Fijians and also took part in operations to mediate the transfer of other peacekeepers, leaving UN posts in the areas worst affected by the fighting between forces loyal to Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and rebel soldiers, including members of the al-Nusra Front, an al-Qa'ida affiliate in Syria.

The Fijians are detained near Quneitra but are believed by their commanders to be unharmed.

Irish Independent

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