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Ban concerned by clashes between Syrian forces and opposition in Golan Heights


Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today expressed concern over reports of clashes between Syrian security forces and the armed opposition in the United-Nations supervised area of Golan Heights, which prompted a response from Israel, and urged both countries to exercise restraint and halt fire.

“The Secretary-General is deeply concerned by the potential for escalation,” said Mr. Ban’s spokesperson in a statement. “He calls for the utmost restraint and urges Syria and Israel to uphold the Disengagement Agreement, respect their mutual obligations, and halt firing of any kind across the ceasefire line.”

The Golan Heights is an area between Syria and Israel, where the peacekeeping mission known as the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) monitors the 1974 disengagement accord between the two countries after their 1973 war. In July, the Security Council agreed to extend the mission’s mandate until 31 December this year.

According to media reports, Syrian small arms fire and one artillery round landed in the Israeli-occupied Golan today, prompting a response by Israel. No injuries to civilians or UN personnel in either instance were reported.

Syria has been wracked by violence, with at least 20,000 people, mostly civilians, killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 20 months ago. The violence has spawned more than 380,000 refugees, while more than 2.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to UN estimates.

On Tuesday the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman warned of signs of the violence spilling over to neighbouring areas.

“The situation inside Syria is turning grimmer every day,” Mr. Feltman said, adding there was a growing risk the crisis could “explode outward into an already volatile region.”


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