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July 8, 2013 9:19 am

Fiji Adds 380 Troops to UN Golan Heights Force

avatar by Joshua Levitt

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A view of Syria from the Israeli side of the border. Photo: wiki commons.

Fiji will send 380 troops to join a U.N. peacekeeping force in the Golan Heights, lifting the Pacific nation’s contribution to 562, the largest in the contingent, the Fiji Sun reported, citing Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama.

Fiji’s soldiers are expected to join the UN force by the end of July, helping to make up for the loss of personnel due to fears of spillover violence from Syria.

So far, Japan and Croatia have already pulled their contingents, and Austria, previously the top contributor with almost 380 soldiers, is in the process of doing the same. The Philippines has also raised the prospect of withdrawing, while U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recently said he was “seriously concerned” about the force’s dwindling numbers.

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A Fiji government statement said Russia had signaled its approval of Fiji involvement when Prime Minister Bainimarama visited Moscow last month and had offered assistance to the Pacific nation’s peacekeepers.

According to AFP, Foreign Affairs Minister Inoke Kubuabola’s office said the assistance would be in the form of military equipment but declined to provide further details.

The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force has been monitoring a ceasefire between Syria and Israel in the Golan since 1974, but violence has escalated as the Syrian conflict spills over into the area.

According to the UN, before the most recent changes, the UNDOF was made up of 908 troops, 42 international staff and 99 local civilian staff and has, in total and since inception, suffered 44 fatalities.

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