Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 22 November 2014

Peacekeepers' deployment postponed

Defence minister Alan Shatter said the 43rd Infantry would have the best kit and protection available to them.
Defence minister Alan Shatter said the 43rd Infantry would have the best kit and protection available to them.

The deployment of 30 Irish peacekeeping troops to Syria has been postponed for three weeks.

Administrative hold-ups at the country's borders have delayed the advanced party, who were due to fly out to Beirut and travel up to the Golan Heights later this week.

The United Nations ordered the soldiers to stay on Irish soil until manifest sheets for border control had been completed.

The rest of the 115-strong contingent of the Defence Forces will remain on stand-by until their deployment to the heavily militarised Syrian border a week later.

One senior officer said hold-ups were not unexpected crossing the border, adding that Ireland's reconnaissance team which travelled out last month were also delayed.

"Everything crossing the border needs to be checked by the Syrians, Lebanese and the UN and there has been a delay," he said.

"The troops will have a few extra days at home rather than waiting somewhere in Beirut."

The Irish peacekeepers' role will be observational and they will have no involvement in the deepening civil war.

Defence minister Alan Shatter has ruled out the possibility of them being targeted in a chemical attack during the deepening civil war and threat of a missile strike from the US.

He insisted the men and women of the 43rd Infantry group had undergone training in the Glen of Imaal in Wicklow and would have the best kit and protection available to them.

This has included rigorous drills on how to deal with a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) incident.

The soldiers will serve as a mobile reserve for the UN disengagement observer force (Undof) to maintain a demilitarised zone between areas controlled by Syria and Israel since the 1973 Yom Kippur war.

Ireland was asked for troops after Japan, Croatia and Austria withdrew soldiers amid concerns the Syrian civil war would spill into the Golan territories.

Shots were fired on Austrian soldiers back in June prompting their withdrawal, while Syrian officers travelling with the UN patrols have been abducted by rebels and executed.

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