Taoiseach Enda Kenny has paid glowing tributes to Irish peacekeeping troops who put their lives on the line for their country and for the United Nations.
Mr Kenny was on a Christmas visit to the 131 members of the 50th infantry group, who serve on the Golan Heights between Syria and Israel.
He told the Irish Independent it was fitting that he came to the contingent's headquarters, Camp Ziouani, to recognise the work being carried out by the peacekeepers in a very sensitive part of the Middle East.
Mr Kenny, who was accompanied by Defence Minister Simon Coveney and Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe, also highlighted the sacrifices made by the troops and their families.
As the Taoiseach spoke, shots could be heard as rival factions in the anti-Syrian government groups exchanged fire.
He recalled that 47 personnel had lost their lives while on peacekeeping duties and said that this week they celebrated 60 years of service to the UN.
A total of 66,000 individual missions had been recorded by Irish troops since then, and, Mr Kenny said, they had been completed with competence and total professionalism.