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Japan troops to guard Golan Heights

TOKYO, Feb. 7 -- A second group of Japanese troops left Wednesday for Syria to serve with a U.N. peacekeeping force in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, government officials said. Japanese military officials said 29 soldiers from Japan's Self Defense Forces will help transport food and guard a garrison under the U.N. Disengagement Observer Forces.

This group will join the 19 other Japanese soldiers who arrived in Syria last week to undertake the mission under the UNFOF. The Japanese troops will take over for a contingent of Canadian troops who transported food and fuels for the UN troops, a senior defense agency official said Tuesday. The SDF members will also take turns with Canadian peacekeepers in guarding a garrison in Ziouani on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights' demilitarized zone, SDF spokesman Seiji Ema said. Japanese newspapers have suggested that the Golan Heights effort may violate Japan's 1992 bill on peacekeeping operations as well as the nation's constitution, especially if the troops use weapons in any way except for self-defense. The unit is the fourth Japanese contingent to serve with U.N. peacekeeping missions since SDF troops were dispatched to Cambodia in 1992. The Japanese troops are expected to remain in Syria until August.

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