15 September '14..
The United Nations has come up with a strange follow-up to Israel’s credible accusations that UN facilities allowed themselves to be used essentially as human shields for Hamas in Gaza: the UN is now, apparently, using Israeli soldiers as human shields up north. Somehow I don’t think that’s what Israeli authorities had in mind when they protested the UN’s one-sided wartime behavior.
What appears to have happened, and which has been confirmed by UN spokesmen, is that UN peacekeeping forces on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights are in retreat. They have, in fact, left Syria. The phrase “peacekeeping forces” should have made them aware of the fact that they would not be supervising a game of hacky sack. A peacekeeping force, theoretically, would arrive during a period of temporary peace to ensure it becomes a permanent peace. The UN forces see it differently.
An AP story today very gently and generously breaks the news, and in doing so buries the lede a bit:
The United Nations said Monday it has withdrawn its peacekeepers from many positions on the Golan Heights because of escalating fighting in the war between Syrian government forces and opposition fighters.
Which positions on the Golan Heights? Asked and answered:
The situation has deteriorated severely over the last few days and advances by armed groups posed “a direct threat to the safety and security of the U.N. peacekeepers” along the Syrian side of the border and in Camp Faouar where many troops are based, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. He said all troops in those areas have been relocated to the Israeli side of the border.
The Syrian side of the border! That’s seems pretty significant. Indeed, it’s the end of an era, as AP notes:
The 1,200-strong U.N. force has patrolled a buffer zone between Syria and Israel since 1974, a year after the Arab-Israeli war. For nearly four decades, U.N. monitors helped enforce a stable truce between Israel and Syria, but the spillover from the Syrian war has led to the abduction of peacekeepers four times since March 2013, made troop contributors wary, and led several countries to withdraw their soldiers.
But all is not lost. It’s possible, says the UN–though they don’t know for sure–that someone affiliated with the UN is still in Syria, somewhere, keeping some kind of peace:
U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told The Associated Press earlier that he doesn’t think every single post has been vacated.
Seems like an important detail. But never mind. The important thing is that the UN peacekeepers are safe, hiding behind Israelis.