Troops take up peace patrols on contested border zone
IRISH peacekeeping troops are on patrol in the tension-filled Golan Heights in Syria after a successful deployment at the weekend.
The main party of 89 soldiers arrived at the headquarters of the Undof mission, Camp Faouar, on Saturday evening and immediately settled into their role as a Force Mobile Reserve.
An advance party of 26 troops arrived on Friday after a commercial flight to Beirut.
The main group travelled on a UN charter flight to Beirut and then went by convoy to the Syrian border crossing at Masnaa, where they were processed by local officials.
Deployment had been delayed by some weeks to avoid hold-ups at the crossing.
An Army spokesman said last night that the soldiers' arrival at the camp had been on schedule.
One of their roles will be to provide a quick-reaction unit that can be can called out at short notice to help the 1,250-strong mission.
They will work alongside troops from the Fiji islands, the Philippines, India and Nepal, covering an area more than 75km long and ranging up to 10km wide in the extreme south.
The Irish will help to patrol a conflict zone between areas controlled by Syria and Israel.
No other military forces, apart from Undof, are allowed to operate there.
They will use Mowag armoured personnel carriers for regular patrolling of the area and provide mutual support to Undof units located in observation posts.
Even though they had a short lead-in to deployment, the officer commanding the Irish contingent, Lt Col Brendan Delaney, is satisfied that their training has been comprehensive and "quite realistic".
A week-long exercise at the Glen of Imaal in west Wicklow included an intensive refresher course on how to deal with CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) problems.
Before they flew out, Defence Minister Alan Shatter told the troops that helping to maintain the 40-year-old ceasefire between Israel and Syria represented an important contribution to preventing further instability in the region.
Given the evolving security scenario in the Undof area, Mr Shatter said the UN security council had enhanced the self-defence capabilities of the mission, increasing the force strength to the maximum of 1,250 and improving its defensive equipment.
The Irish contingent, known as the 43rd Infantry Group, ranges in age from 21 to 58 and includes four women.
It comprises personnel from 15 counties, though the majority are from Dublin.