The United Nations has protested to the Syrian Government for claiming it had UN permission to attack rebel opponents in the Golan Heights demilitarised zone, according to a letter.

“We regard it as a serious matter that Syrian authorities would claim that a United Nations senior official would approve activities in violation of Security Council resolutions,” UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said in a letter yesterday to Syria’s UN ambassador obtained by AFP.

Ladsous demanded that the Syrian army halt “incursions” into the demilitarised zone between Syria and Israel which he said were a threat to unarmed UN observers and civilians.

Israel has twice in the past week fired across the ceasefire line, established in 1974, in response to stray fire from Syrian troops fighting rebels inside the zone.

Syria’s deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad told AFP on Wednesday that the commander of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) had approved Syrian action to pursue rebels.

Syrian Government forces have battled rebel forces across the country as President Bashar al-Assad fends off a 20-month old uprising which activists say has left more than 39,000 dead.

“Certain extremist forces entered the demilitarised zone, occupied two or three villages and threatened to kill the inhabitants,” Muqdad told AFP. “We consulted the UNDOF mission, who said: ‘Yes, you can solve the problem.’”

Ladsous said in the letter to Syria’s ambassador Bashar Jaafari that the UNDOF commander “strongly denied” have given any approval.

“On the contrary, the force commander informed the Syrian authorities that should the SAAF (Syrian Arab Armed Forces) proceed with the operations, UNDOF would protest officially,” the peacekeeping chief added.

Ladsous said the Syrian activities undermined the UNDOF mission and “exposed United Nations personnel to serious safety and security risks” and could jeopardise the ceasefire accord between Israel and Syria.

Israel captured the Golan during the 1967 Six Day War and annexed it in 1981, in a move never recognised by the international community. The latest incidents in the ceasefire zone are the worst since it was created in 1974.

(This article was published on November 16, 2012)
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