Diplomats: UN curbs Golan patrols after peacekeepers seized

March 14, 2013 15:53

BEIRUT - UN peacekeepers monitoring the ceasefire line between Syria and the Golan Heights have scaled back patrols after rebels detained 21 Filipino observers for three days last week, diplomats said on Thursday.

The seizure of the unarmed observers highlighted the vulnerability of the 1,000-strong UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), whose mission began in 1974, to the growing violence in Syria.

It also heightened concern in Israel that Islamist rebels, separated from Israeli troops only by a toothless UN force, may be emboldened to end years of quiet maintained by Syrian President Bashar Assad and his father before him on the Golan front.

"They have reduced their patrols for now, halted patrols in areas like the place where the Filipinos were taken hostage," one diplomat in the region said.

A UN official in Damascus declined to comment, but two Israeli officials confirmed that UNDOF had reduced operations.

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