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Artillery rounds land metres from Irish troops in Syria gun battle

A spokesperson for the Defence Forces said all 39 of the Irish troops involved returned to their base camp “safe and sound”.

A UN peacekeeper from the UNDOF force stands guard on a watch tower at the Quneitra Crossing between Syria and the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.
A UN peacekeeper from the UNDOF force stands guard on a watch tower at the Quneitra Crossing between Syria and the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.
Image: Ariel Schalit/AP

IRISH SOLDIERS STATIONED in Syria’s Golan Heights region were caught in the crossfire of a gun battle between pro and anti-government factions in the country this morning.

A spokesperson for the Irish Defence Forces told TheJournal.ie that 39 troops from the Irish convoy, who are part of the United Nations peacekeeping mission, were on a routine escort operation this morning in ten armoured vehicles.

“There was obviously some conflict between some of the warring factions – the pro and anti-government sides – and they drove through an area that was under fire at the time,” they said.

Three artillery rounds landed 200 metres from the convoy but the spokesperson said that the armoured vehicles are designed to provide the “force protection” necessary.

About an hour and a half later, a decision was made to return to the base camp because of an escalation in the conflict and on the way back, they travelled through another area where there was artillery fire. Ten rounds again landed about 200 metres from the convoy.

The troops arrived back in their camp “safe and sound” by 11.30am local time today.

The spokesperson said that while the UN mission has nothing to do with the civil war in the country, it is still a “dangerous area”.

“It’s not unexpected, they did was was expected – they’re professional soldiers, they’re well equipped and well trained and they made all the right decisions,” they added.

Ireland has deployed 115 members of the Defence Forces to the UN mission, joining personnel from various international armies including Fiji, Nepal, India and the Philippines.

The role of the Irish troops is to provide a mobile company as Force Headquarters Reserve in the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force to cater for reinforcement, escort and other operations in the ‘Area of Responsibility’. Their functions are similar to those provided in Liberia and Lebanon.

Explainer: What are Irish troops doing in Syria?>

Read: Irish soldiers ‘trained, ready, focussed and looking forward’ to Syria mission>

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