U.N. Renews Peacekeeping Mission on Golan

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -

The U.N. Security Council renewed for six months on Thursday a peacekeeping mission in the Golan Heights monitoring the truce between Israel and Syria that has been shaken by a spillover of violence from Syria’s civil war.

The unanimously agreed-upon resolution stresses the need for the peacekeepers, who currently carry only handguns, to boost their protection. Diplomats said troops would likely now get equipment such as flak jackets, armored vehicles and machine guns.

The United Nations also plans to increase the force, which is known as UNDOF and has been operating with about 900 troops, to its authorized strength of 1,250.

UNDOF monitors the area of separation between Israel and Syria, a narrow strip of land running 45 miles from Mount Hermon on the Lebanese border to the Yarmouk River frontier with Jordan.

The Security Council resolution “stresses the need to enhance the safety and security of UNDOF” and endorses recommendation of “further adjustments to the posture and operations of the mission, as well as to implement additional mitigation measures to enhance the self-defense capabilities.”

Peacekeepers have been caught in the middle of fighting between Syrian troops and rebels in the area of separation, which had been largely quiet since the ceasefire. Shells and bullets also have landed on the Israel side, and Israeli troops have fired into Syria in response. Most have been stray fire, but Syria admitted recently to an incident in which its forces deliberately targeted an Israeli position.