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Ireland Mulls Peacekeeper Withdrawal from Golan Heights

  • VOA News

A member of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) looks through binoculars at Mount Bental, an observation post in the Golan Heights overlooking the Syrian side of the Qunietra crossing, Aug. 31, 2014.

A member of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) looks through binoculars at Mount Bental, an observation post in the Golan Heights overlooking the Syrian side of the Qunietra crossing, Aug. 31, 2014.

Ireland's defense minister says his country needs safety reassurances from the United Nations before it sends more peacekeepers to the Israel-Syria border next month.

Simon Coveney told Irish broadcaster RTE Monday that the U.N. must provide clarity on the "acceptable level of risk" for a peacekeeping mission before Ireland will send troops again to the Golan Heights. That's where Islamist groups continue to hold 44 Fijian peacekeepers abducted last week.

Ireland's troops are due to rotate personnel in October.

Syrian forces and rebel fighters battled at the Quneitra border crossing Monday, jeopardizing security conditions for the more than 1,200 peacekeepers who monitor the Golan Heights buffer zone. The clashes were in the same area where the al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front kidnapped the peacekeepers Thursday.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued another appeal for the release of the Fijian soldiers Monday.

Ban said U.N. force commanders and agencies are negotiating with the armed groups for the peacekeepers' freedom.

On Sunday, the international organization said it did not have information on where the abducted troops were being held.

Seventy-two Philippine peacekeepers escaped a rebel barricade in the Golan Heights on Saturday and Sunday. The Philippines has said it will not send troops back to the U.N. mission.

Austria, Japan and Croatia already removed forces from the Israel-occupied Golan Heights as the boundaries of Syria's civil war expanded.

Peacekeepers have monitored the demilitarized zone for 40 years.

Some information in this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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