March 26 - United Nations peacekeepers confirm violence between Syrian government loyalists and rebels is spreading into the buffer zone. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
A UN foothold in Syria. United Nations peacekeeping troops patrol a slice of Syrian territory to maintain a ceasefire with Israel. They now face new risks as violence between Syrian government loyalists and rebels comes closer. Earlier this month, peacekeepers stayed in their bunkers as several Syrians were reportedly killed by gunmen loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. The U.N. did not publicize the incident, and there was no report from Israeli forces. This apparent desire to play down the threat reflects the tension gripping the U.N. operation that ran successfully for 36 years and now faces a new challenge as a year-long Syrian uprising against Assad turns ever more violent. (SOUNDBITE) (English) UNDOF COMMANDER MAJOR GENERAL NATALIO ECARMA SAYING: "In the military we always have contingency plans, our purpose is to make sure that if anything happens, whatever it is, the tension does not escalate and friction between Syria and Israel does not happen." The UN is concerned about the rise in violence. Austrian Major Stefan Eder. (SOUNDBITE)(English) AUSTRIAN MAJOR STEFAN EDER SAYING: "There is for sure discussions about that, so far UNDOF is strictly limited to it's mandate, and his mandate says we have to observe the ceasefire agreement of '74." Israel says it would open the Golan gate to Syrian refugees if Assad falls. But Israel, still formally at war with Syria, seems an unlikely haven. Arab neighbors Jordan and Lebanon are just as close to southern Syrian cities as the Golan. Deborah Lutterbeck, Reuters.