|UNDOF Disengagement Zone|
A day after capturing 43 United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) troops from Fiji, Syrian rebels now reportedly have surrounded another 81 Filipino UNDOF peacekeepers. Earlier, Syrian rebels, including Jabhat al-Nusra fighters, had occupied the Quneitra crossing near the town of Quneitra.
The 43 Fijian troops were in the vicinity of Quneitra crossing, the one authorized crossing point across the Golan disengagement zone. It is normally used to allow local Druze villagers to cross for family reasons and to export apples grown by Druze in the Israeli-occupied sector.
|Current UNDOF Deployments (UN)|
The 1,223 UNDOF peacekeepers are armed only with light weapons, which they are authorized to use in self defense, but only "in extreme circumstances."
The current UNDOF deployment includes detachments from Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, Netherlands, and the Philippines, though the last has announced its intention to withdraw its troops.
Though the Fijian Army consists of only six infantry battalions, two are normally stationed abroad as peacekeepers; the first battalion is now with UNDOF, though it has served with UNIFIL in Lebanon as well, and the second battalion is with the Multinational Force and Observers in Sinai.
I have two comments to make. First, it is a reminder that the Blue Helmets really do run risks, specially in situations like South Lebanon and now, the Golan. (Austria, Croatia, and Japan have pulled their troops out of UNDOF, and as mentioned, the Philippines is about to do the same.)
Second, I wonder: Jabhat al-Nusra does realize that UNDOF is the only thing standing between them and the Israeli Army, doesn't it? Of course this may be a deliberate attempt to provoke Israel and allow Nusra to claim that they, not the Asad regime, are fighting for the Golan. But that could prove to be risky business.