NEWS

Red Alert In Golan

Eighty Fijian peacekeepers on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights are on high alert after explosions were heard. An Israeli media report said an Israeli F-16 fighter jet was
11 Feb 2018 12:11
Red Alert In Golan

Eighty Fijian peacekeepers on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights are on high alert after explosions were heard.

An Israeli media report said an Israeli F-16 fighter jet was shot down by Syrian military while targeting what it called Iranian sites responsible for launching a drone into the Israeli side of the Golan Heights.

Israel set off a RED alert siren.

Republic of the Fiji Military Forces Chief of Staff Brigadier-General Ro Jone Kalouniwai said last night that while he had not received any official report, he could say that the Fijian troops were safe based on media reports.

“Looking through the media reports, I don’t think it affected any of our positions in the Golan Heights, because if it did, I would have been informed,” he said.

He said from the 348 RFMF soldiers on the ground, around 80 plus soldiers were in Syria and the rest were deployed on the Israeli side.

The Fijians’ movement has been restricted since yesterday after the incident.

A source within the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, of which the RFMF is a member, said: “The Arabs say it’s their territory but the Israelis say it’s theirs. It’s like history repeating itself, and everyone here is just listening to the news.”

The officer said: “Yes, it was a red alert and the situation here has been escalating day by day. According to many here something really big is about to happen.”

The Fijian troops are maintaining high morale by praying for each other.

Irish, Nepali and Indian soldiers serve alongside the Fijians.

This was the first major incident after the Fijians moved back to the Syrian side in November 2016  from the Israeli side.

They relocated to the Israeli side in 2014 after 45 Fijian peacekeepers, taken captive by Jabhat al-Nusra militants in the current operational area, were released.

The latest incident marks the heightening of tension between Israel and Syria.

The Israeli military said yesterday: “A combat helicopter successfully intercepted an Iranian UAV that was launched from Syria and infiltrated Israel.

“IDF [Israel Defence Forces] has targeted the Iranian control systems in Syria that sent the #UAV into Israeli airspace. Massive Syrian Anti-Air fire, one F16 crashed in Israel, pilots safe,” Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus, Israeli military spokesperson, said.

Israeli media said the jet crashed in northern Israel.

“This is a dramatic development,” Al Jazeera’s Zena Khodr, reporting from Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, said.

“Israel has carried out dozens of attacks over the past one year, but this is the first time the Syrian military has shot down an Israeli plane,” she said.

“It is also for the first time that Israel has said its planes carried out attacks inside Syria. In the past, the Israelis carried out attacks inside Syria, but they would not mention anything about the target or even acknowledge attacks.”

Syria state television later cited a Syrian military official as saying that Israeli “aggression” targeted the Syrian army base in the central region of the country.

Sources in Damascus said there were casualties among Syrian forces.

In response, Syria shot down more than one Israeli fighter jets, according to the official.

Sirens sounded in northern Israel as a result of massive Syrian fire.

Israeli military said it was “monitoring events” and was “fully prepared for further action”.

Israel’s chief military spokesperson, Brigadier-General Ronen Manelis, said Israel held Iran directly responsible for the incident.

“This is a serious Iranian attack on Israeli territory. Iran is dragging the region into an adventure in which it doesn’t know how it will end,” he said in a statement.

“Whoever is responsible for this incident is the one who will pay the price.”

Edited by Naisa Koroi

Feedback:  losirene.lacanivalu@fijisun.com.fj

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