Austrian peacekeepers to withdraw from embattled Golan Heights
Smoke billows during clashes between Syrian rebels and forces loyal to the regime near the Quneitra crossing in the Golan Heights on Thursday. AFP Photo
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The Austrian government announced on Thursday that it will be withdrawing its peacekeepers in the Golan Heights, in light of the siginificant violence the area witnessed on Thursday.
According to Reuters, Austrian peacekeepers make up approximately 380 of the 1,000 strong UN monitoring force stationed in the Golan Heights.
The aim of the force is to monitor a ceasefire between Syria and Israel.
"Freedom of movement in the area de facto no longer exists. The uncontrolled and immediate danger to Austrian soldiers has risen to an unacceptable level," Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann and his deputy Michael Spindelegger said in a joint statement, according to Reuters.
The announcement comes as intense clashes between Syrian regime forces and rebels have been reported on Thursday, as the two sides battle it out for the control of the border crossing.
According to Israeli reports, the army took control of the crossing on Thursday afternoon.