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150 troops to deploy to Middle East

Up to 150 Irish troops will be deployed to the Middle East to protect a sensitive border crossing.

Defence Minister Alan Shatter revealed he has secured Government approval to send Defence Forces personnel to a UN mission in Syria.

The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights, is a neutral border zone between Syria and Israel.

The Irish troops will replace the Austrian soldiers who pulled out when two peacekeepers were injured as Syrian government and rebel fighters battled.

Mr Shatter said UNDOF remains an important element in ensuring some level of stability in the region.

"It is important that UNDOF has at its disposal all necessary means and resources to carry out its mandate safely and securely," he said.

"The support of troop contributing countries, such as Ireland, to UNDOF, allows the mission to continue implementing its mandate in a safe and secure manner. The proposed deployment of an Irish contingent to UNDOF, if approved by Dail Eireann, would bring the strength of the mission up to the authorised level of 1,250."

UNDOF was established in May 1974 following the agreed disengagement of the Israeli and Syrian forces in the Golan Heights.

The Defence Forces already have more than 10 soldiers with the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation's (UNTSO) Observer Group Golan in Syria, with hundreds in Liberia and Lebanon

Three members were also deployed to UNDOF mission headquarters at Camp Faouar earlier this month, with a fourth to be deployed to the mission HQ shortly.

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