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Dublin: 15°C Thursday 5 August 2021

I'm not going to pull troops out of Golan before UN review --- Coveney

Irish troops carried out a daring rescue mission of their Filipino colleagues yesterday. The fate of 44 UN peacekeepers from Fiji captured by rebels still remains unknown.

Members of the 44th Infantry Group train in Wicklow earlier this year.
Members of the 44th Infantry Group train in Wicklow earlier this year.
Image: PA Archive/Press Association Images

SPEAKING IN THE wake of yesterday’s daring rescue mission of Philippines peacekeeping troops in the Golan Heights by Irish soldiers, Defence Minister Simon Coveney has said he’s seeking assurances from the UN about the ongoing mission. He also re-iterated his call for a fundamental review of the mission to be carried out.

The Defence Forces confirmed last night that all Irish troops were “safe and accounted for” after they were deployed on an operation to rescue 35 Filipino troops early yesterday.

Irish soldiers picked up their comrades in armoured vehicles after the Filipinos came under attack from Syrian rebels.

All 75 of the Filipino troops caught up the siege were confirmed as safe today. The rebels, some of whom have links Al-Qaeda, surrounded them and demanded their weapons on Thursday.

The fate of 44 UN peacekeepers from Fiji still remains unknown, however. The Fijians were taken captive by rebels just before the Filipinos were besieged.

“Irish involvement in my view is crucial to this mission so I’m not going to pull our troops out without the opportunity for the UN to fundamentally review the overall mission, how it’s operating and to give us the assurances that we’re asking for,” Minister Coveney told Newstalk earlier.

“Once we get a release, hopefully, of the Fijian troops, I think that is the time to have a fundamental review of the overall operations of this [mission] and Irish involvement in that.”

130 members of the Defence Forces’ 46th Infantry Group are due to travel to the region next month, taking over from the 44th Infantry Group, who have been there since March.

The troops are serving as part of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, set up in 1974 to police the ceasefire between Israeli and Syrian troops in the Golan Heights.

First posted at 6.30pm.

Read: No Irish troops among dozens of peacekeepers captured in the Golan Heights

Read: Irish peacekeeping troops experiencing ‘some harassment’ in Syria

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