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Fiji Steps Up to Bolster Precarious Golan Heights Peacekeeping Mission

Efforts are being made to bolster the contingent of UN peacekeepers on the Golan Heights,even as it is being scaled down in the shadow of deteriorating stability between on the Israeli-Syrian border.

Fiji, a tiny chain of islands in the Pacific Ocean, agreed to send it troops to strengthen the United Nations Disengagement and Observers Force (UNDOF). The Fiji Times reported Monday that the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations had confirmed that some 170 personnel would join the UN mission in the Golan Heights.

UNDOF was created in 1974 following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, which involved fighting between Israel and Syria. Its aim since then has been to monitor the ceasefire between the two countries.

The UNDOF mission has been largely quiet until the war in Syria broke out nearly 30 months ago. In recent weeks peacekeepers were caught in the middle of fighting, and some of troops were kidnapped by the rebels. All were subsequently released. As a result of the incidents, Croatia and Austria decided to pull their troops from UNDOF. The Philippines announced that they would do the same soon. The resulting crisis threatened UNDOF’s existence, which in turn risked creating a vacuum between Israel and Syria.

The Fiji contingent will replace the troops from Croatia and Austria. They will work alongside some 340 troops from the Philippines and nearly 200 from India.

Fiji troops had also served in the U.N. peacekeeping force in South Lebanon until 2002, staffing the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

[Photo: Cato1222 / YouTube]