Fijian peacekeepers on the Golan Heights were in bomb shelters yesterday as hostilities escalated between Israeli and Iranian forces operating in Syria.
The Commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF), Rear Admiral Viliame Naupoto said they were doing this as a precautionary measure.
He said Iran’s forces fired about 20 rockets at Israeli targets the Golan Heights.
“I must assure families and the nation that our soldiers in the Golan Heights are safe,” he said.
He said all Fijian soldiers had been accounted for.
The rockets, he said, were actually landing in the Golan Heights, but far away from the Fijian position.
He said the Fijian Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Sakeasi Rabitu Baka, had been briefing them on the situation.
Rear Admiral Naupoto has appealed to the families not to worry about the safety of our soldiers.
“They are safe,” Rear Admiral Naupoto said.
“The morale of the Fijian peacekeepers is high.”
Meanwhile, Reuters has reported that Israel had launched dozens of rockets into Syria early on Thursday, destroying a radar installation and hitting an ammunitions dump.
The Syrian state media reported this after Israel’s military said Iranian forces in Syria had shelled one of its outposts near the border.
The scale of Israeli fire was far higher than in previous incidents and Damascus residents described seeing a series of explosions above the city from air defence systems.
Tensions between Israel and Iran have threatened to spill over into Syria, where the Iranian military and allied Shi’ite militia is backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his war against rebels seeking to oust him.
Israel’s military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus said earlier that Israel had retaliated for an attack on its outposts in the strategic Golan Heights plateau. He did not elaborate.
Israeli media said residents of Metulla, on the Lebanese border, had been instructed to go to bomb shelters. There was no official confirmation.
Facts about Lt-Col Baka
Lieutenant-Colonel Rabitu Baka joined UNDOF on September 21, 2017 as Commanding Officer Fiji Battalion. He was born on January 17, 1972 in Nausori, and enlisted in the RFMF on the March 2, 1992. He was commissioned into the Officers Corps on April 30, 1993.
He has served at all levels of command locally and abroad and was holding the appointment of the Chief Staff Officer Logistics within the Directorate for Peace Support Operations before this appointment as Commanding Officer Fiji Batt-V in UNDOF for 2017/18.
Lieutenant-Colonel Baka has served in various peacekeeping missions abroad. Namely in 2FIR (MFO), Sinai, 1FIR (UNIFIL) Lebanon, HQ MFO, Sinai in Egypt, UNMISET, 1FIR UNAMI (Iraq), 2FIR (MFO) Sinai, UNMISS (South Sudan), UNAMI (Iraq).
He attended the Nanjing Command and Staff College in China.