Austria is holding an investigation into the conduct of its peacekeepers with the UN force over an incident that took place in 2012. In 2012, the Austrian UN peacekeeping force was operating in the Golan Heights when a group of Syrian policemen were ambushed.
The incident was filmed and the video has been published online. The video shows gunmen who were readying the ambush followed by the police vehicle being fired upon.
This prompted a special inquiry by the Austrian Defence Ministry to be launched. According to the video, it is noticeable that the Austrian force had apparently failed to inform and warn the group of policemen of the prepared trap.
During the video, an Austrian peacekeeper can also be heard stating that ‘normally’ they should have told the police. A little later in the video, another peacekeeper says that the event is about to start to another. This is said when the police vehicle nears the spot of the ambush.
According to a UN spokesman, nine members of the police were killed during the incident by 13 rebels. The spokesman also stated that the video was disturbing and that the UN is going to be investigating it alongside the Austrian authorities.
Since 1974, a UN peacekeeping force has been patrolling the buffer zone on the Syrian Golan Heights which separates the Syrian and Israeli forces. The video from 2012 was taken during a time when intense fighting was taking place between the rebels and forces of the Syrian government.
However, questions have been raised as to whether the Austrian peacekeepers actually had a duty or not to warn the Syrian forces even if doing so was not an explicit part of the mandate for the Golan mission.
Austria had withdrawn its forces from the Golan mission back in 2013 due to worsening of security in the region. It is believed that the Austrian troops who were witnesses to the ambush can now be prosecuted as accessories to murder, according to some human rights expert.