Peacekeepers are caught in crossfire
A SMALL group of Irish peacekeeping soldiers are taking cover in heavily reinforced shelters at an United Nations post caught up in the crossfire between troops loyal to Syrian president, Bashar Assad, and rebel forces.
They have been in what is known as "groundhog" since yesterday morning when rebel groups, believed to include Islamists, attacked Syrian government positions close to the only open border crossing in the area between Syria and Israel.
A Defence Forces spokesman here said last night that all of the Irish were safe.
The Irish group are part of an UN detachment are based at the Al Zouani camp, near Al Qataniyah, which was under heavy fire throughout the day.
The rebels launched a major offensive to take over the government positions early yesterday and troops loyal to the president initiated a counter- attack later in the day.
The rest of the 130-strong Irish contingent, the 44th infantry group, are on a heightened state of alert at their headquarters, Camp Faouar.
They have been placed on stand-by but are not in groundhog as they are well away from the fighting.
The contingent is due to return home shortly after completing a six-month tour of duty since their arrival on the Golan Heights in March.
Irish troop engagement with UNDOF, the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, on the Golan was sanctioned by the government here in July last year.