UN urges Syrian warring parties to stop fighting in UN zone

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council on Thursday urged Syrian government forces and rebel groups to stop fighting in the buffer zone between Syria and Israel and withdraw from the area which is patrolled by U.N. peacekeepers.

The council strongly condemned recent intense fighting including the use of heavy weapons in the buffer zone, a spillover from the war in Syria.

A resolution adopted unanimously by the council extends the mandate of the U.N. force, known as UNDOF, until June 30.

UNDOF has patrolled the buffer zone between Syria and Israel since 1974, a year after the Arab-Israeli war and for nearly four decades it helped enforce a stable truce between the two countries.

But the nearly four-year Syrian war has moved into the zone not only with intense fighting but the abduction of peacekeepers by al-Qaida-linked anti-Syrian government militants and other attacks that prompted several countries to withdraw their soldiers.

The council supported Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's findings that military activity in the zone has the potential to escalate tensions between Israel and Syria, "jeopardize the cease-fire between the two countries, and pose a risk to the local civilian population" and U.N. personnel.

The Security Council reaffirmed its readiness to consider sanctions against individuals and groups providing support to the Islamic State terrorist group and Jabat al Nusra, which are very active in Syria and all other al-Qaida-linked groups.

At the end of October, UNDOF had 934 troops from Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal and Netherlands. Most are deployed on the Israeli side of the buffer zone.

The council recognized efforts to adjust UNDOF's deployment to minimize security risks, and stressed the need to provide the force with "all necessary means and resources to carry out its mandate safely and securely."

It called on all Syrian armed groups to abandon UNDOF positions and the Quneitra crossing point, and return the peacekeepers' vehicles, weapons and other equipment.

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