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The UN Is Being Driven Out of the Syrian Golan Heights

The UN Is Being Driven Out of the Syrian Golan Heights

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Sept. 1, 2014 (LPAC)–The UN peacekeeping force in the Golan Heights was established in the aftermath of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War as a means of maintaining stability between Israel and Syria and as a channel of communications between the two sides. That mission may now be coming to an end, largely because the Syrian government is losing control of the territory on its side of the border with Israel, territory patrolled by the UN force.

Reuters reports that there was heavy fighting, witnessed by one of its photographers, between Syrian forces and militants on the Golan Heights, this morning. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) shot down a drone that had flown into Israeli airspace from the Syrian side of the border, yesterday; the 70 or so Philippine troops that had been trapped by Al Nusra fighters were successfully extracted, but the 44 Fijians that were abducted a few days by Al Nusra militants remain captive, and Al Nusra occupies the Quneitra crossing on the border with Israel.

{Ha’aretz}’s Amos Harel notes a broader, more dangerous implication of the threat to the UN peacekeeping mission, however. “The bottom line is that Syria’s military presence on the border is dissipating, and being replaced by that of new more hostile and unstable forces,” Harel writes. According to Harel’s sources, Syrian forces have been driven out of all the territory south of the Quneitra crossing and now only retain control of the Mount Hermon area and the Druze town of Khader, northeast of the crossing. “UN supervision, established after the Yom Kippur War of 1973, is, for all intents and purposes, about to end.” Militant groups in Syria haven’t expressed (at least not yet) a desire to attack Israel, Harel writes, so “The immediate concern is the spilling of the fighting into Israeli territory — this includes mortar rounds, light arms fire and the unmanned aerial vehicle intercepted on Sunday. Events are unfolding so rapidly that it’s difficult to assess when they will have an impact on Israel’s security.”

“While Nusra Front is on the Golan, the Islamic State is not far behind,” Harel concludes. “It’s not the end of the world, but Israel must remain alert.”

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