Russia will deploy military police at eight observation points in Syria’s Golan Heights, and U.N. peacekeepers have returned to the frontier, the Interfax news agency reported on Thursday, August 2, citing the Russian Defence Ministry.
The military police deployment was to “prevent possible provocations,” the Russian General Staff said.
“Today, U.N. peacekeepers accompanied by Russian military police conducted their first patrols in six years in the separation zone,” Reuters reported Sergei Rudskoi, a senior Russian defense ministry official, as telling journalists in Moscow.
“With the aim of preventing possible provocations against UN posts along the ‘Bravo’ line, the deployment is planned of eight observation posts of Russia’s armed forces’ military police,” Rudskoi said.
The U.N. Disengagement Observer Force has monitored the agreed disengagement between Israeli and Syrian forces in the area since 1974.
The U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria was established in April 2012, but was suspended two months later and terminated that August.
The Russian General Staff said that those operations can now be resumed.
Update August 2 A U.N. peacekeeping spokesperson confirmed to The Defense Post that U.N. peacekeepers had conducted a patrol to the Quneitra crossing area after liaising with both the Israel Defense Forces and Syrian Arab Armed Forces, through the Senior Syrian Arab Delegate (SSAD).
“The SSAD and Russian military police personnel simultaneously conducted a patrol to the area,” the spokesperson said. “Any Russian military police presence or planned deployment in the Syrian Arab Republic is separate and distinct from that of UNDOF.”
“UNDOF is implementing a gradual return to the area of separation. The ultimate goal for UNDOF is the full return, conditions permitting. Currently, more than one-half of the Mission’s military personnel is deployed on the Bravo side, including its headquarters at Camp Faouar.”
The spokesperson said that the re-opening of the Quneitra crossing between the Alpha and Bravo sides is a key priority in the ongoing incremental return of UNDOF to the area of separation.
“UNDOF maintains regular contact with the Israel Defense Forces and Syrian Arab Armed Forces, as well as with relevant interlocutors related to the de-escalation zone in the south-west part of Syria, particularly on the potential implications for UNDOF in relation to the implementation of its mandate and in ensuring the freedom of movement of the Force, as well as the safety and security of its personnel,” the spokesperson added.
On Tuesday, the Russian special presidential special envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev said that Syrian government troops completely controlled territory adjacent to the Golan Heights, Tass reported.
“Now, Syrian posts have been deployed in the entire territory adjacent to the disengagement line between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights and at the Jordanian border,” he said.
On Wednesday, the Israel Defense Forces carried out an airstrike in the area, killing seven people that Israel believes were linked to Islamic State.
The strike came after the suspected militants crossed the ceasefire line and came within several hundred meters of the fence leading to Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, IDF spokesperson Jonathan Conricus said on Thursday.
Later searches turned up the seven bodies, five AK-47 assault rifles, explosive vests and what appeared to be grenades, he added.
Conricus declined to say specifically where the incident occurred, but said it was in the southern Golan, near the Jordanian border, and that there had been no coordination with Syria or Russia before the strike.
Jordan’s army also said Thursday it had killed a number of people who tried to approach its northern border with Syria. Clashes with encroaching Khaled Bin Walid Army fighters lasted 24 hours between Tuesday and Wednesday.
“We applied rules of engagement and members of the [Islamic State] gang were forced to retreat inside Syria,” Reuters reported an army source as saying to state news agency Petra.
With reporting from AFP. This post was updated in August 2 with additional information about the IDF strike and the Jordanian army statement. It was later updated with a U.N. peacekeeping spokesperson statement.