Irish peacekeeping troops were sent to the Golan Heights without ‘game changer’ missiles which could have been vital in their recent skirmish with al-Qaeda-linked rebels.
The Sunday Independent reports that Javelin missiles costing $100,000 each, were left behind in Dublin when the troops embarked on the UN mission.
Military sources have told the paper that the Javelin missiles were ‘potential’ game changers in any fire fight with Islamist rebels.
But they remained back in camp in Kildare as the Irish peacekeepers engaged in a dramatic gun battle with the rebels, armed with just machine guns and rifles.
The story has been revealed just weeks after Irish soldiers rescued trapped fellow UN Filipino troops who were surrounded by rebels belonging to the al-Nusra Front militants.
The Sunday Independent says details of the Irish troops’ armaments were withheld while the troops were effectively trapped inside Syria in order not to jeopardize their safety.
The 130-strong Irish mission and around 1,000 other UN troops are now safely inside Israel after a withdrawal last Monday through a safe corridor provided by the Israeli Defense Forces.
Senior military sources have told the paper that the Javelin weapons could have had a decisive effect if the al-Nusra front, responsible for beheadings and other atrocities, had attempted to overrun the main UN base, Camp Faouar, over the past month.
The report says the Javelin is a ‘fire and forget’ shoulder-launched guided missile that is ‘very simple to use’.
A source told the paper: “It has a devastating effect. You put in the co-ordinates and it does the rest.”
The report adds that the Irish UN troops were not ‘heavily armed’ as was reported.
They were armed only with .5 machine guns mounted on their 12 armored personnel carriers and their personal rifles against much more heavily armed al-Nusra fighters with anti-tank missiles, mortars and armored vehicles taken from the Syrian army.
A statement from the Irish Government said the decision not to allow Irish troops to use the Javelin missiles was in line with United Nations regulations.
It said: “The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) mission is equipped for self-defense only.
“Defense Forces equipment deployed to UNDOF with the Irish contingent were in accordance with the Statement of Unit Requirements agreed with the UN prior to deployment.
“None of the contingents deployed with UNDOF carry Javelin missile systems.”
The report adds that army sources believe Israel was concerned the weapons would fall into the Islamists’s hands if the Irish position were overrun.
However Israel has denied this and said it was a decision purely for the UN.
Ireland’s Defence Minister Simon Coveney said this week that he is hopeful agreement would soon be reached on changes to the UN mission in the Golan Heights, which would prevent Irish troops from getting caught in the crossfire of Syria’s brutal civil war.
He said: “Under no circumstances am I going to send Irish troops on a peacekeeping mission to involve themselves in a civil war and trying to enforce peace on that civil war.”
Israel has thanked Ireland for the recent peacekeeping efforts.
The Deputy Director of the Israeli Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Aharon Leshno-Yaar praised Ireland’s contribution to peacekeeping in the area on a visit to Dublin
He said: “Ireland is a friend of Israel. We thank you for your contribution to UN peace keeping missions in Golan and South Lebanon. Your contribution is fantastic.”