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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

UN Condemns Spillover from Syria into Golan Heights

Three Syrian tanks entered the demilitarised zone in the Golan Heights
Source: Arutz Sheva
By Elad Benari

The United Nations on Tuesday condemned fighting by Syrian forces close to a Golan Heights ceasefire line with Israel as a new threat to stability in the region, AFP reported.

UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky was quoted as having said a mortar shell and a tank round fired from the Syrian side of a ceasefire line created in the Golan Heights in 1974 had landed on Israel's side.

"The presence of military personnel and the military operations in the area of separation are grave violations of the 1974 agreement" setting up the demilitarized zone, Nesirky said, according to AFP.

"It has the potential to escalate tensions between Israel and Syria and jeopardizes the ceasefire between the two countries and the stability of the region," he added, highlighting the "serious safety and security risks" to the UN unarmed force in the Golan.

On Monday, an Israeli military jeep was hit by Syrian gunfire on the Golan Heights. 

IDF soldiers were patrolling near the northern border when they came under gunfire from the Syrian side of the border. There were no casualties.

Last Saturday three Syrian tanks entered the demilitarized zone between Syrian and Israeli territory on the Golan Heights.

The tanks, which belong to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces, entered the village of Bir Ajam, a short distance away from an IDF position while allegedly maneuvering as part of the fighting between Assad and rebel forces. 

Meanwhile, the UN's top political official Jeffrey Feltman said the fighting in Golan and increased tensions in Lebanon and Turkey showed that the "risk is growing that this crisis could explode outward into an already volatile region."

Since a 1974 agreement between the two countries, a 1,200-strong unarmed UN force, UNDOF, has patrolled the Golan buffer zone.

Nesirky said UNDOF had seen Syrian forces "conducting operations with at least four main battle tanks and mortar fire inside the area of separation."

He said the Golan was "relatively quiet" on Tuesday but the UNDOF commander was trying "to prevent an escalation of tension" between Syria and Israel.

Earlier on Tuesday, Israel filed a formal complaint with the UN about the military spillover over the northern border from Syria's civil war.

Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor wrote a scathing letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, deeply critical of both the incident involving the three tanks as well as the gunfire that struck the military jeep.

Prosor said that while Israel continues to act with restraint, such activities could cause instability in the region.

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