Russia: UN peacekeepers return to Golan Heights-Syria frontier
The peacekeeping mission conducted its first patrol since 2014 alongside Russian forces
A United Nations peacekeeping force has returned to the frontier between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights for the first time since 2014, Russia said on Thursday.
UN peacekeepers accompanied by Russian military police patrolled the area for the first time in six years on Thursday, Sergei Rudskoi, a senior Defence Ministry official was quoted as saying by Interfax. The peacekeeping mission was halted amid the violence of Syria's civil war.
The UN had not responded to a request for comment at the time of writing.
The announcement came after Moscow said it would deploy military police to the frontier of the territory and set up eight observation posts.
"With the aim of preventing possible provocations against UN posts along the 'Bravo' line, the deployment is planned of eight observation posts of Russia's armed forces' military police," Mr Rudskoi said.
Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, backed by Russia and Iran, have reclaimed much of the area bordering the Golan in southwestern Syria from rebels and militants.
The presence of Iranian forces and Tehran-aligned fighters, such as members of Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, has pushed Israel to counter the threat from its arch-enemy near its northern border.
Early Thursday, Israeli killed seven militants in an air strike on the Syrian-held Golan Heights, Israel Radio reported.
The Israeli military confirmed it carried out an air strike, saying it had targeted "several armed terror operatives in the southern Syrian Golan Heights" overnight. It did not elaborate on any casualties. There was no immediate Syrian government response to the Israeli statements.
The Israeli military said that, after the air strike, "explosive belts and an AK-47 assault rifle were found in the area". It did not specify how they had been found.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in the UK, said on Thursday that clashes continued between the Syrian army and ISIS militants in that area.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in 1967 in a move that was never internationally recognised. In 1974, the UN deployed peacekeepers between the two sides.
Syria and Russia have recently carried out dozens of air raids across the south and south-east of Syria as they accelerate their offensive against rebel groups and enclaves of hardline militants linked to ISIS.
The offensive has displaced thousands of civilians, and several groups of rebels have negotiated surrender agreements. ISIS-affiliated groups are not included in the deals.
Israeli warplanes have struck Iranian-backed targets dozens of times during the civil war in Syria. Last year, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview that more than 100 operations against Hezbollah and Iran had been carried out in Syria.
Hezbollah has been fighting alongside troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.
Updated: August 2, 2018 03:07 PM