VIENNA (AP) — Austria announced on Thursday that it is withdrawing the country's 377 U.N. peacekeepers from the Golan Heights after the Syrian conflict briefly spilled over to an area near their position.
In a statement, Chancellor Werner Fayman and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said that "the development ... has shown that further waiting can no longer be justified."
Rebels briefly overran a border position near the destroyed city of Kuneitra early Thursday before Syrian government troops retook it. The peacekeepers receive most of their supplies through that position from Israel.
Austria's soldiers make up the largest contingent of the approximately 900 U.N. peacekeepers posted to the Golan Heights separating Syria and Israel.
There has been an Austrian U.N. peacekeeping force present there since the start of the Golan mission in 1974 to separate Israeli and Syrian forces.
The two Middle East adversaries agreed to creation of the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force after Syria launched military action in 1973, in a failed effort to retake the area it lost to Israel in 1967.
The Philippines and India also have peacekeepers posted to the Golan. Croatia withdrew its contingent in March.
The Philippine military announced that one of the country's peacekeepers was wounded earlier Thursday during fighting between Syrian government and rebel forces.
The soldier suffered a leg injury from an artillery or mortar shell that landed at Camp Ziouni, a logistics base for the U.N. force. He was in stable condition.