Austria to withdraw its UN peacekeepers from Golan Heights

Austria will withdraw its troops from the UN peacekeeping mission in the Golan Heights, the government said Thursday, after Syrian rebels briefly seized a crossing on the Israel-Syria ceasefire line.

"In light of this, the defence minister said that... the Austrian army's participation in the UNDOF mission can no longer be maintained for military reasons," Chancellor Werner Faymann and Vice-Chancellor Michael Spindelegger said in a statement.

"Freedom of movement in the area no longer exists.

"The... threat to Austrian soldiers has reached an unacceptable level. The events of this morning show that it is no longer justifiable to wait and see," they added.

A press conference was planned for 5:00 pm (1500GMT).

Austria has been part of the UN mission in the Golan Heights since 1974 and is currently one of the biggest contributors there, with some 380 troops.

Other contributors to the 1,000-strong mission include the Philipines, India, Morocco and Moldova.

Rebels fighting troops loyal to Damascus on Thursday briefly seized the only crossing along the Israel-Syria ceasefire line in the Golan Heights, before regime forces recaptured it, Israeli sources and an AFP correspondent said.

In Manila, the Filipino military said one of its peacekeepers in UNDOF was wounded in the leg by shrapnel on Thursday.