(JNS.org) Syrian rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad briefly took control of the Quneitra border crossing between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights on Thursday, forcing the Austrian U.N. peacekeepers stationed there to flee.
As a result of the incident, Austria has decided to pull its 380 peacekeepers following the battle there, Reuters reported.
The 1,000-strong United Nations Disengagement Observer Force has been monitoring the Quneitra crossing since the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Israeli International Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz issued a statement expressing regret over the Austrian withdrawal, while also extrapolating a lesson for Israel.
“Even as part of peace agreements, Israel cannot place its security in the hands of international forces instead of relying on the presence of IDF soldiers,” Steinitz said, according to the Jerusalem Post.
A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Ban is urgently looking for a country to replace the Austrian contingent, calling the peacekeeping mission “essential.”