Dozens of Irish troops serving with a UN peacekeeping mission in Syria had a lucky escape this morning after artillery rounds were fired on them - landing within 200m of their convoy.
The Defence Forces confirmed that 39 troops attached to the 2nd Brigade - mostly from Dublin's Cathal Brugha Barracks - and 24 other troops belonging to the UN Disengagement Observer Force in Syria were on a routine armed escort when they got caught up in a "firefight" between government and anti-government forces as their armed convoy drove through the Durbol area shortly after 9am local time.
Three of the artillery rounds landed within 200m of the convoy of ten armoured vehicles although no one was injured.
They continued on the route but "when it became obvious there were a lot of localised fire ights between Syrian forces a decision was made at 10.30am to return to base at Fauar," Ireland Defense Forces spokesman Denis Hanly said.
But as they were returning to base using a different route, they were fired on again, with another 10 rounds landing within 200m of the convoy, he said.
However none of the Irish or other UN troops were injured and their vehicles were not damaged when they returned to base in the Golan Heights around 11am local time, he added.
Although there have been similar skirmishes since the Irish troops were deployed there in September, "this is the most serious incident so far," he said.
The troops are among 119 Irish peacekeepers currently serving in Syria.