Russia plays referee on the Golan Heights
The area has been a repeated flashpoint over the course of Syria's civil war
Russian military police posts are being set up in Syria along the demilitarized zone of the Golan Heights facing Israel, Russian state news agency Interfax reported Tuesday.
It is only the latest instance of Russia acting as a referee in the Syrian civil war.
The area has for decades been under the supervision of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, or UNDOF. The force, created in 1974, is mandated to help maintain a ceasefire between Israeli and Syrian forces and supervise disengagement.
But over the course of Syria’s seven-year civil war, the ceasefire zone has been a repeated flashpoint — between the Syrian military and armed opposition groups, as well as the Syrian and Israeli armed forces.
The UN Security Council in June 2017 passed a resolution calling on all groups to vacate UNDOF positions and to return peacekeepers’ vehicles, weapons and other equipment that had been looted.
Moscow, an ally to rivals Tel Aviv and Damascus, has used its influence to play arbiter.
Lieutenant-General Sergei Kuralenko, the deputy commander of Russian forces in Syria, said Tuesday that Russian military police were already deployed along the Golan Heights.
“At the moment four Russian military police posts are in place. Another two will be deployed in the near future. There will be six of them all in all. Eventually we may increase the total number to eight, if need be,” he told the Russian news agency TASS.
Kuralenko stressed the Russian posts sit outside the sensitive demilitarized zone and that the mission of his men is to assist UNDOF in renewing patrols.
According to TASS, Syrian government forces will take over the Russian posts “as soon as order has been restored.”