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Irish troops safe after mortar attack injures two UN peacekeepers in Golan Heights

The two soldiers were evacuated to Israel for medical care.

Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

TWO UN PEACEKEEPERS have been wounded today in the Israeli-held sector of the Golan Heights, an army spokesman said.

It is believed mortar rounds fired from Syria hit their base.

Two UN peacekeeping soldiers were evacuated to Israel for medical care,” Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner wrote on his official Twitter account.

Israel public radio said the two were lightly wounded.

Irish troops 

A spokesperson for the Irish Defence Forces confirmed that Irish troops are safe and accounted for in Camp Ziouani.

The current Irish contingent, the 48th Infantry Group, operates in the role of a Quick Reaction Force, which is on standby to assist with on-going operations within the UNDOF Area of Responsibility, said the Department of Defence in a statement this afternoon.

“This Quick Reaction Force has been tasked over the last few days to secure and clear sites and to evacuate two injured UN observers (non-Irish) from a UN Post within the UNDOF Area of Responsibility.”

It is believed that the fire was not deliberately aimed at the Israeli side of the plateau, but was stray fire from the ongoing conflict in Syria.

‘Operations are not without risk’

The Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney said:

“I am fully aware that peacekeeping operations are not without risk, however the safety of our troops is my priority. I am concerned at the recent incidents and will continue to monitor developments in the region”.

Th minister went on to say that “the UN provides regular updates on the mission to the Security Council.  The presence of the UNDOF mission remains an important element in ensuring stability on the Golan Heights and in the Middle East region”.

Since the Syrian conflict erupted in 2011, the plateau has been tense, with a growing number of rockets and mortar rounds hitting the Israeli side, mostly stray, prompting the occasional armed response.

Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP that fighting has been taking place since last week between rebel groups in an area close to the ceasefire line.

“There is still infighting going on among rebel groups in Qahtaniya near the ceasefire line with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. They’re exchanging shellfire,” he said.

© AFP, 2015  Additional reporting Christina Finn 

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