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Croatia to withdraw troops from Syria-Israel border after reports it was arming rebel fighters

The Croatian government fears the nearly 100 troops could be targeted by Syrian government fighters after reports the country was arming rebel fighters.

Golan heights 2013 3 1Enlarge
A sign showing the different distances to Jerusalem, Baghdad, Damascus and other locations is seen at an army post in Mount Bental in the Golan Heights. (AFP/Getty Images)

Croatia has announced the withdrawal of troops stationed in the Golan Heights.

The government fears they could become targets for Syrian government fighters following reports Croatia was supplying weapons to rebel forces trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the Associated Press reported.

The Croatian government has denied the reports, but Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said the damage had been done and it was time to bring the nearly 100 troops serving in the UN peacekeeping force home, Reuters reported.

"We can deny over and over again, but everyone has already read these reports and our soldiers are no longer safe. We want them to return home safe and sound," Milanovic was quoted as saying.

The New York Times said the UN Disengagement Observer Force has been helping to maintain calm between Syrian and Israeli troops stationed in the demilitarized zone along Syria’s Golan frontier with Israel, which was set up after a cease-fire ended the 1973 war.

The decision to withdraw the troops follows a NYT report on Monday that said Saudi Arabia had underwritten purchases of weapons from Croatia that were then sent to Syrian rebel fighters.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/130301/croatia-withdraw-troops-syria-israel-border-rebel-fighters