UN confirms 43 UN peacekeepers seized in Syrian Golan
UNITED NATIONS, United States - Agence France-Presse
Irish members of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) sit on their armoured vehicles in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights as they wait to cross into the Syrian-controlled territory, on August 28, 2014. The UN has confirmed that 43 UN peacekeepers were seized in the Syrian Golan. AFP PhotoThe United Nations confirmed that an armed group captured 43 UN peacekeepers on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights on Thursday, saying it was doing everything to secure their release.
"Forty-three peacekeepers from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) were detained early this morning by an armed group in the vicinity of Quneitra," it said in a statement.
An additional 81 peacekeepers were "currently being restricted to their positions in the vicinity of Ar Ruwayhinah and Burayqah," it added.
No details were released on the nationalities of the detained peacekeepers but six countries are contributing to the 1,200-strong unit: Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, Netherlands and the Philippines.
UN officials noted that the peacekeepers monitoring the armistice line between Israel and Syria were detained twice last year and released safely.
"The United Nations is making every effort to secure the release of the detained peacekeepers and to restore the full freedom of movement of the force throughout its area of operation," it added.
Israel closed off the area around Quneitra on Wednesday after an officer was wounded by stray fire as Syrian rebels,including fighters from the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra front, stormed the crossing.
In June 2013, there was a similar takeover of the crossing by rebel forces, but the Syrian army managed to regain control.