Ban Ki-moon - AP - 28.2.2011
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Photo by AP
Text size

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asked the Security Council on Tuesday to maintain a peacekeeping force in the Golan Heights because of the volatile situation in the Middle East.

Ban asked the council to extend for another six months, from June 30, the mandate of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) because the situation will remain tense "unless and until a comprehensive settlement covering all Middle East problem can be reached."

UNDOF was first deployed in 1974 to monitor a ceasefire between Israel and Syria. It is now made up of 1,041 troops from Austria, the Philippines, India. Croatia, Japan and Canada. Its mandate has been renewed every six months since 1974.

Tensions rose recently in the UNDOF-controlled area on May 15 and June 5 when Palestinians tried to breach the ceasefire line to protest against the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) post in the area.

The May 15 protests took place on Nakba day, the day that Palestinians mourn the tragedy of the establishment of the Israel, while the June 5 protests occurred on Naksa day - the anniversary of the Arab defeat in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Syria reported that 23 people were killed in the June 5 clashes, but the IDF has disputed that number, saying that it is likely exaggerated and there is no way to verify it.

A UN report on the Naksa day events said the IDF used tear gas, smoke grenades and live fire to prevent the demonstrators from crossing the ceasefire line.

It stated: "Several anti-tank mines exploded due to a brush fire apparently started by tear gas or smoke grenade canisters near UNDOF facilities at Charlie Gate, resulting in casualties among protesters."

The brush fire was put out by Syrian and Israeli fire squads, and UNDOF, the report read.