The Bold Voice of J&K

UN peacekeeping official backs Ind force cdr in Golan

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United Nations : The head of UN peacekeeping operations has commended General Iqbal Singh Singha, the Indian force commander of the UN mission in the Golan Heights, for his “strong leadership” and “good and sound judgement” during a hostage crisis in the area last week.

Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous backed Singha, who is being criticised by the Philippine military which said he should be investigated for allegedly asking Filipino troops to surrender to the Syrian rebels who had attacked and surrounded their camp.

Ladsous re-iterated his commitment to Singha’s leadership and said the Indian military official “displayed very strong professionalism and very strong leadership in making decisions all along that I think helped.

“And he is utterly to be commended and I place on the record my full trust in the way he performed his duty,” he told reporters here yesterday.

Forty-five Fijian peacekeepers, serving with the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), monitoring a ceasefire established in 1974 between Israel and Syria, were detained on August 28 by armed elements of the Syrian opposition in the vicinity of Al Qunaytirah.

The Syrian rebels, including fighters from the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, stormed the crossing Al Qunaytirah sparking an exchange of gunfire with Israeli troops.

In a separate incident, 72 Filipino peacekeepers had been surrounded by armed elements in two different locations in the Golan and were later safely relocated.

On whether the Filipino peacekeepers were under orders not to resist, Ladsous said they were never under such specific orders.

“You would realise though that the situation on the ground is a fast moving one. There is time for decisive action and that was, in particular, a decision to engage a Quick Reaction Force to extract people,” Ladsous said.

“Then there are times when other considerations, including the one about the safety of the people come in, and then you?have to possibly refrain from proactive stands — that means pulling back really — because that might put other people in danger.

“It’s a matter of judgement, but I would say again that General Singha has exercised good and sound judgement all along that process,” he said.

When asked that Philippines military sources have insisted that Singha had ordered the Filipino peacekeepers to hand over their weapons to the militants, Ladsous said the peacekeepers were never given such orders.

“Never to hand over weapons. To leave the weapons quiet so as to give some space, but never to hand over the weapons,” he said adding that the order was “not to shoot”.

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