Assad forces take back Golan heights from rebels as Austria pulls out of border guarding role

National Post | News

Anti-Assad rebels briefly seized the sole crossing between Israel and Syria on Thursday morning, sending UN staff scurrying to their shelters, before Syrian soldiers managed to push them back and reassert their control of Quneitra.

Austria said on Thursday it would pull out of a UN force on the Golan Heights after battles between Syrian troops and rebels there, in a blow to a mission that has kept the Israeli-Syrian war front quiet for 40 years.

Israel is anxious for the international mission to remain in place, worried that the Golan will become a springboard for attacks on Israelis by Islamist militants fighting to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

But the departure of the Austrians, who make up about 380 of the 1,000-strong United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), threatens the whole operation.

“Austria has been a backbone of the mission, and their withdrawal will impact the mission’s operational capacity,”…

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