After 32 years, Canada lowers flag on Golan Heights mission

Canadian Forces lowered the Canadian flag on the Golan Heights on Friday, wrapping up a 32-year peacekeeping presence in the region.

Canadian Forces lowered the Maple Leaf on the Golan Heights Friday, ending a 32-year peacekeeping presence in the region.

There were bagpipes, hugs, tears and cheers with senior military personnel on hand for the ceremony known as a "draw down."

The Golan Heights area lies across Israel's northern border in Syria.

"We've made an important contribution," Maj.-Gen. Michel Gauthier, commander of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces Command, told CBC News.

"There are some critical skill sets that we've committed to that mission over time and we need to shift those to other areas now," he said.

Two Canadians remain

Only two Canadian soldiers will be left with the force by summer.

The Golan Heights force was set up after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war to monitor the ceasefire. For a generation, Canadian soldiers have provided logistical and communications services to the operation.

"The reality is that our missions will shift over time," Gauthier said.

"And clearly the big mission is in Afghanistan, that's where our big mission is."

The Canadians will be replaced by other members of the United Nations mission, which is made up of Austrian, Indian and Japanese soldiers.

The Canada-Israel Committee said in a statement that it was sorry to see the Canadians go.

The group praised "the excellent work and professionalism that Canadian Forces have played in monitoring and supervising" in the region.