UN peacekeepers briefly held by Syria armed group

Three Golan Heights UNDOF observers from Post 52 held for five hours by unknown group, released unharmed.

May 17, 2013 02:52
2 minute read.
UN peacekeeping force [illustrative]

UN peacekeepers blue helmets. (photo credit: Ali Hashisho / Reuters)

UNITED NATIONS - Several UN military observers were briefly taken hostage by an unknown armed group in the Israeli Golan Heights just three days after Syrian rebels

Syria's two-year civil war has spilled into the zone, which had been largely quiet since the ceasefire. Stray shells and bullets have landed on the Israeli-controlled side and Israeli troops have fired shells into Syria in response.

Four Filipino peacekeepers were released on Sunday after they were held for five days by the rebel Yarmouk Martyrs' Brigade, who said they held the soldiers for their own safety after clashes with Syrian troops had put them in danger.

The same rebel group held 21 Filipino peacekeepers for three days in March, giving the same reason for detaining them. While in November, a convoy of UN peacekeepers came under fire near the airport in Damascus.

"We have adjusted somewhat the operational posture of UNDOF," Ladsous said of the increased security risk. "We're in close contact with the troop contributors with a view to retaining their active support because they are crucial."

Japan and Croatia have withdrawn troops from UNDOF due to the violence, leaving troops from Austria, India and the Philippines. Fiji is likely to fill the gap, diplomats said. The Philippines and Austria have expressed concern about the risk to their troops from the Syrian conflict.

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