[QODLink]
Middle East

UN peacekeepers abducted near Syria border

UN chief condemns "kidnapping" of four peacekeepers monitoring ceasefire line in Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Last Modified: 10 May 2013 12:21
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback

Four UN peackeepers are being held in the ceasefire line between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, where neither Israeli nor Syrian forces can operate.

Josephine Guerrero, spokeswoman for the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), said on Tuesday the four were "detained today by an unidentified armed group while they were patrolling" near Al Jamlah in the so-called Area of Limitation.

"The four are from the Philippine battalion. Efforts are under way to secure their release," she said.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, strongly condemned the abductions and called for the peacekeepers' immediate release.

"The secretary-general calls on all parties to respect UNDOF's freedom of movement and safety and security," Martin Nesirky, Ban's spokesman, said.

Reuters reported that a Syrian rebel group had claimed responsibility for the abductions. The news agency quoted the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigades as saying that it was holding four Filipino peacekeepers following clashes in the area that had put them in danger. 

Spotlight
In-depth coverage of escalating violence across Syria

Al Jazeera's Rula Amin, reporting from Beirut in neighbouring Lebanon, said rebel brigades based in the area where the abductions occurred maintain that "[the peacekeepers] are not hostages".

"They [rebels] did not kidnap the UN peacekeepers. They simply took [the peacekeepers] because they want to save their lives," she said.

"Because there is a lot of heavy clashes in the area between government forces and the rebels, they say they are trying to protect the UN observers."

She said "promises" have been made "that the men will be released very soon".

Al Jazeera's James Bays, reporting from the UN headquarters in New York, said the soldiers were a part of UNDOF, which has been in the Golan Heights since the end of the Arab-Israeli war in 1973.

Tuesday's incident follows a similar situation in March involving peacekeepers from the Philippines, and UN diplomats are worried about the continuation of the peacekeeping operation at a time of extreme tension in the region, he said.

309

Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Swathes of the British electorate continue to show discontent with all things European, including immigration.
Astronomers have captured images of primordial galaxies that helped light up the cosmos after the Big Bang.
Critics assail British photographer's portrayal of indigenous people, but he says he's highlighting their plight.
As Western stars re-release 1980s charity hit, many Africans say it's a demeaning relic that can do more harm than good.
Featured
No one convicted after 58 people gunned down in cold blood in 2009 in the country's worst political mass killing.
While hosting the World Internet Conference, China tries Tiananmen activist for leaking 'state secrets' to US website.
Once staunchly anti-immigrant, some observers say the conservative US state could lead the way in documenting migrants.
NGOs say women without formal documentation are being imprisoned after giving birth in Malaysia.
Public stripping and assault of woman and rival protests thereafter highlight Kenya's gender-relations divide.