Damascus, Syria, September 16 – The United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) for the Middle East is altering the designation of the international soldiers deployed to monitor cease-fire lines to more accurately reflect their status and mission. Starting October 1, the “peacekeeper” designation will be replaced by “sitting duck.”

The renaming comes after a series of incidents in which UN peacekeepers monitoring compliance with the 1974 agreements between the Israeli and Syrian armies came under attack and were taken captive by rebels fighting the Syrian government, though they were subsequently released into Israeli territory. Other UN troops in the Demilitarized Zone were rescued from a rebel siege through the intervention of a separate UN convoy that came under fire. Given that the force’s mandate does not include serious combat activity, it cannot present a serious deterrent to an entity uninterested in maintaining peace, and its soldiers become pawns. The UNTSO commander, Major General Michael Finn of Ireland, has decided to rename the UN peacekeepers under his command “sitting ducks.”

UN sitting ducks will continue to perform the same duties as before under the new name, says Finn. “It is not the nature of the missions that has changed, but the precision of the terminology,” he said. As before, UN sitting ducks will mark minefields and educate locals about the dangers; oversee the movement of people and agricultural produce; and conduct regular surveys of area military facilities to ascertain that the limits on troop concentrations are followed.

Regarding the last, since Al Nusra Front fighters ousted Syrian Army troops and imprisoned the sitting ducks, there are no Syrian troop concentrations to monitor in certain segments of the Golan Heights frontier. Rebel troops lie outside the force’s mandate to monitor or confront, and the Security Council resolutions governing the 1974 agreement do not refer to belligerents other than the IDF and the Syrian military. This places all UN troops along the DMZ in a more precarious position, making the term “sitting duck” even more applicable.

mallardTo accompany the shift in nomenclature, sitting ducks will be outfitted with new uniforms and headgear. Whereas until now the familiar blue berets and helmets have graced the troops, the sitting ducks will soon be issued mallard-inspired fatigues and a helmet with a yellow or orange bill. Higher-ranking officers will wear entirely yellow or white uniforms and yellow boots.


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