Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for maximum restraint by all sides after yesterday’s violence in the occupied Golan Heights, which reportedly led to an unconfirmed number of civilian casualties, and warned that it threatens the long-held ceasefire between Israel and Syria.
Media reports say that Israeli troops opened fire on Sunday as hundreds of protesters from Syria stormed the ceasefire line, in a repeat of demonstrations held last month. Syrian authorities are reporting that 23 people were killed.
“The Secretary-General regrets the loss of life, and extends his condolences to the families of the victims,” his spokesperson said in a statement issued last night. “He condemns the use of violence and all actions intended to provoke violence.”
The world body said that the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) is seeking to confirm facts and help calm a continuing volatile situation in the area.
The statement noted that the yesterday’s incident, and a similar one in the Golan last month, puts the long-held ceasefire in jeopardy.
Mr. Ban called for maximum restraint on all sides and strict observance of international humanitarian law to ensure protection of civilians. He also reminded the Syrian authorities of their obligation to protect UNDOF personnel and facilities.
UNDOF was established in May 1974 following the disengagement of Israeli and Syrian forces after the 1973 war.
The unrest along the ceasefire line is taking place as violence continues to escalate within Syria, where the Government continues its crackdown against pro-reform protests that are part of a broader uprising across North Africa and the Middle East. The number of casualties has topped 1,000 since mid-March, with many more injured and thousands arrested.