New York - UN leader Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday called for
better protection for UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights to counter the
growing threat of spill-over violence from the Syria conflict.
Ban made the call as Austrian troops started withdrawing
from the UN Disengagement Observer Force (Undof) following attacks and
abductions of peacekeepers. Croatia and Japan have also withdrawn in recent
UN troops monitoring a ceasefire between Syria and Israel
traditionally only carry small arms.
Ban called on the UN Security Council to consider
measures to beef up the force.
"These include, as a matter of priority, enhancing
the self-defence capabilities of Undof," he said in a report.
"It is also necessary to consider further
adjustments to the posture and operations of the mission," said Ban.
Diplomats said better self-defence would mean more armoured
cars and body armour and the changes to the mission operations would mean
further cutting back on patrols, and perhaps closing some observer positions.
Austria, the biggest single contributor to Undof, began
withdrawing its troops from the force on Wednesday.
About 70 soldiers from the 378-strong Austrian contingent
entered Israel to begin their journey home.