[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
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Nearly half of Canadians have suffered inappropriate advances on the job - and the political arena is no exception.
Featured
Women's rights activists are demanding change after Hanna Lalango, 16, was gang-raped on a bus and left for dead.
Buried in Sweden's northern forest, Sorsele has welcomed many unaccompanied kids who help stabilise a town exodus.
A look at the changing face of North Korea, three years after the death of 'Dear Leader'.
While some fear a Muslim backlash after café killings, solidarity instead appears to be the order of the day.
Victims spared by the deadly disease are reporting blindness and other unexpected post-Ebola health issues.