UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – News Agencies – The United Nations said about 20 peacekeepers had been detained by armed fighters in the Golan Heights on the border between Syria and Israel on Wednesday and that it has sent a team to resolve the situation.
The UN’s Security Council demanded their immediate and unconditional release.
The United Nations confirmation came in response to YouTube videos purporting to show Syrian rebels with the seized convoy. It also followed the February 25 announcement that a member of the peacekeeping force, known as UNDOF, is missing. The video, circulated by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the peacekeepers being held by the rebels are 20 Filipinos.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in a 1967 war. Syrian troops are not allowed in the area of separation under a 1973 ceasefire formalized in 1974. Israel and Syria are still technically at war. The area is patrolled by UN peacekeepers.
“The UN observers were on a regular supply mission and were stopped near Observation Post 58, which had sustained damage and was evacuated this past weekend following heavy combat in close proximity, at Al Jamlah,” the United Nations said in a statement issued in New York.
A video posted online showed a man named Abu Qaed al-Faleh from the “Martyrs of Yarmouk” brigade who said the convoy would not be released until forces loyal to President Bashar Assad withdrew from the village of Al Jamlah, a mile east of the ceasefire line in the Golan Heights.
Surrounded by several rebel fighters with assault rifles, al-Faleh stood in front of a two white armored vehicles and a truck with “UN” written on them. At least five people seen sitting in the vehicles were wearing United Nations light blue helmets and bullet-proof vests.
“If no withdrawal is made within 24 hours we will treat them as prisoners,” he said, accusing them of collaborating with Assad’s forces to push the rebels out of Jamla. UNDOF supervises a 1974 ceasefire agreement between Syria and Israel.