UN Peacekeepers Abducted in Syria
The U.N. has announced that up to 43 peacekeepers have been abducted by armed men in Syria near the country’s only border crossing with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Thursday, a day after militants took the crossing from the Syrian regime, the United Nations said.
Those holding the peacekeepers are members of the al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, one of the groups fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an Israeli military official said.
“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,” the U.N. said in a news release.
The 43 peacekeepers, all from Fiji, are part of a U.N. operation that has been in the Golan Heights area since 1974, charged with maintaining a ceasefire between Syrian and Israeli forces since a 1973 war, the United Nations said.
They were detained Thursday morning near the Syrian town of Quneitra, the location of the border crossing that rebels had captured, according to the United Nations. In addition, 81 U.N. peacekeepers from the Philippines were being “restricted to their positions” Thursday near villages in the area, the U.N. said without elaborating.
Al-Nusra Front fighters and other Syrian rebels seized control of the Syrian side of the Quneitra crossing Wednesday — a capture that represents a new dynamic in a war long feared not only for its deadly effects inside Syria but for threatening to widen into a destabilizing regional conflict.
Fighting appeared to continue Thursday. From the Israeli-occupied side of the Golan Heights.
The Israeli military has closed the area it controls around the border crossing.