Jerusalem Post: Irish UN troops “almost certainly” would have been killed or taken hostage during fighting in Syria last week if it were not for Israeli soldiers saving them, senior sources told the Irish Independent on Sunday.
The senior sources said Israeli soldiers, who have guard posts overlooking the UN demilitarization zone in Quneitra, provided “decisive” help to the Irish UN soldiers in the area, and that they helped guide UN rescue troops away from al-Nusra forces.
The crisis would likely have been similar to the ongoing hostage situation with Philippine and Fijian UN troops in the buffer zone along the Syrian border. The Philippines’ soldiers managed to escape into safety in Israel, while the 44 soldiers from Fiji still remain in captivity.
On August 28, terrorists from the Nusra Front, the Syrian wing of al-Qaida, captured 72 UN troops from the Philippines and 44 UN troops from Fiji.
Al-Nusra is threatening to put the Fijian soldiers on trial under Islamic Shari’a law unless a series of demands are met, including the group’s removal from the UN’s list of global terror organizations, and monetary compensation for members killed in fighting.
According to IDF assessments, al-Nusra fighters make up a third of the 2,000 rebels that have taken control of the Quneitra region. Al-Nusra’s members are unlikely to target Israel soon, the army estimates.
Last week, a senior IDF officer said, “We provided all of the assistance we could to the United Nations Disengagement and Observation Force.” He stressed that no Israeli soldier crossed the border into Syria.
The Nusra Front poured into the Syrian Golan Heights in recent weeks after being pushed away from eastern Syria by its rival, Islamic State, thereby upsetting the balance of rebel groups that had previously dominated the Quneitra region and Dara’a.
“Now we see them deployed along the Israeli border. But we don’t think they’re about to target Israel. They conquered old Quneitra and the border crossing, together with other rebels. Nearly all of the border between Syria and Israel is under the control of a variety rebel groups,” the source added.
“Al-Nusra has said their war is against the Syrian regime, but that when they are done, the turn of the Jews will come. We are preparing,” the officer said.
All of the rebels groups are armed with a large range of weapons, including light arms, explosives, mortars, artillery, armored personnel carriers, and tanks.
Some include ex-Syrian soldiers in their ranks who know how to operate the weapons.
Israel is continuing to accept wounded Syrians, irrespective of their affiliation, for humanitarian medial treatment in Israeli hospitals.