Austria withdraws from Golan peacekeeping force
After the 1956 Sinai war, UN peacekeepers were installed to watch our border with Egypt. In May 1967, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser expelled them, and the Six Day War ensued.
After Israel 'unilaterally disengaged' from Gaza in 2005, European troops were installed to watch the critical Philadelphi corridor between Gaza and Egypt, which was being used for weapons smuggling. When Hamas took over Gaza in 2007, the Europeans fled.
After the 1974 disengagement of forces between Israel and Syria on the Golan Heights, a United Nations force was installed to watch the border between the two countries. Now, with Syria's civil war spilling into the Golan, Austria, which has the largest contingent in the force, is withdrawing its troops. (And there are many other examples - UNIFIL in Lebanon and UNDOF in Sinai come immediately to mind - of ineffective peacekeeping forces).
The Austrian decision came after battles between Syrian troops and rebels near the Quneitra crossing point. The 1,000 strong United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) has been monitoring the border for the last 40 years.
Israel is keen on the force remaining on the border and trying to preserve the quiet that has reigned there for some 40 years. The Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that it "regrets" the Austrian decision and "hopes it will not lead to an additional escalation" in the region.
The statement said that Israel expected the UN to uphold its commitment under Security Council Resolution 350 to maintain UNDOF.
One diplomatic official said that Israel was watching the developments closely and that its faith in the international peace keeping troops hung in the balance. "If at a time when a few bullets are fired, these forces run away form where they are needed to keep the peace, then what is it worth," the official said.Indeed. Read the whole thing.
Assad's troops apparently took back the border crossing during the day on Thursday.