Austria probes UN peacekeepers over Golan deaths

Austria withdrew its peacekeepers from the Golan Heights in 2013 because of worsening security

Austria said Saturday it is probing a 2012 incident in which its UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights reportedly let Syrian policemen drive into a fatal ambush.

A video made by the Austrian peacekeepers and published online by the Falter weekly on Friday shows what the paper says are Syrian smugglers setting up their ambush behind rocks.

An hour later a white jeep with the Syrian police arrive and the Austrian peacekeepers allow them to pass, according to Falter. The footage then shows the Syrians being shot at and killed.

Discussions among the peacekeepers heard in the clip show that they knew that they were letting the Syrian police into a trap, Falter said.

"Really you should tell them," one of the peacekeepers is heard to tell another in Austrian dialect. "It's about to start, you'll see," says another as the vehicle nears the ambush.

The Austrian defence ministry said that a special commission of enquiry began its work on Saturday.

"As a first step all reports, orders, laws and regulations that could be relevant for the enquiry are being collected, examined and evaluated," spokesman Michael Bauer said on Twitter.

"The UN is invited to work with us," he said on Twitter.

The Austria Press Agency quoted a spokesman for the United Nations as calling the video "disturbing".

The world body would follow up actively on this issue in cooperation with the Austrian authorities, the spokesman says.

The spokesman added that the incident, which left nine members of the Syrian security forces killed by 13 members of the armed opposition, was reported to the UN Security Council and included in a UN report.

The Salzburger Nachrichten daily quoted on Saturday an Austrian soldier who served as a UN peacekeeper in the Golan Heights as saying that the peacekeepers' actions were "100-percent correct according to our mandate".

"The order is: don't get involved," Markus H., who was not present during the incident concerned, told the paper's online edition.

The armistice line on the sector of the Golan Heights, seized by Israel from Syria in 1967, was largely quiet for decades until the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011.

Austria withdrew its peacekeepers in 2013 because of worsening security.

Austria withdrew its peacekeepers from the Golan Heights in 2013 because of worsening security