* UN says Syria tanks in Golan a grave violation of truce
* Israel describes incident as an "alarming development"
By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 6 Israel has asked the U.N.
Security Council to act on a "dangerous escalation" by Syria,
which has sent tanks into a demilitarized zone in the Golan
Heights patrolled by U.N. peacekeepers to maintain a ceasefire
between the neighbors.
Israel captured the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau, from
Syria during a 1967 Middle East war. The 400-square-km
(155-square-mile) zone is a so-called "area of separation" where
Syrian military forces are not allowed under a 1973 ceasefire
formalized in 1974. Israel and Syria are still technically at
The zone has been largely quiet since the ceasefire. But on
Saturday an Israeli military spokeswoman said three Syrian tanks
had entered the area and Israeli media said the tanks were
involved in the fighting with rebels.
"The tanks remain in this area. Just today, gunfire from the
Syrian side of the border struck an Israeli patrol," Israeli
U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor wrote to the Security Council in a
letter dated on Monday and released on Tuesday.
"The international community and the Security Council should
address this alarming development without delay to prevent
further escalation," he wrote.
A revolt by Syrians against President Bashar al-Assad began
as peaceful rallies calling for more freedoms and democracy but
turned into an armed struggle after the military cracked down on
Diplomatic intervention has been fruitless because major
world and regional powers cannot agree over how to end the
conflict. It has killed about 32,000 people, making it the
bloodiest of Arab uprisings that have ousted entrenched leaders
in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen since early last year.
Israel said Syrian tanks entering the Golan Heights
represented "a dangerous escalation that could have far-reaching
implications for the security and stability of our region."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin
Nesirky said on Tuesday there had been sporadic fighting between
Syrian troops and the opposition in the Golan Heights, with the
Syrian army using mortar shells and tank rounds, some of which
landed across the ceasefire line in Israeli-occupied territory.
"The presence of military personnel and the military
operations in the area of separation is a grave violation of the
1974 Agreement on Disengagement between Israeli and Syrian
forces," Nesirky told reporters.
"UNDOF (the U.N. peacekeeping mission) reported that the
situation today is relatively quiet, but has not observed the
battle tanks leaving," he said. "The UNDOF Force Commander
continues to liaise with Syrian authorities and the Israel
Defense Forces (IDF) to prevent an escalation of tension."