UN peacekeepers detained by Syrian fighters

Syrian rebelsVideo circulated by Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claims to show Syrian rebels detaining peacekeepers in Deraa city

By Associated Press in New York
About 20 peacekeepers in the force charged with monitoring the ceasefire between Israel and Syrian troops on the Golan Heights have been detained by approximately 30 armed fighters, the UN has said.

The UN deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey said the observers were on a regular supply mission earlier on Wednesday when they were stopped near an observation post that had sustained damage and was evacuated last weekend following heavy combat.

He said the peacekeeping mission, known as UNDOF, had dispatched a team to assess the situation and attempt a resolution.

Video circulated by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claims to show Syrian rebels detaining UNDOF peacekeepers in the city of Deraa.

The rebels, according to the report, accuse the peacekeepers of assisting the Syrian regime in redeploying in an area near the Golan Heights, which the fighters had seized a few days ago in battles that led to the death of 11 fighters and 19 regime forces.

The Observatory said the peacekeepers being held by the rebels were all Filipinos. It said they would not be released until regime forces withdrew from a village called Jamla.

The UN force was established in 1974 following the 1973 Yom Kippur war to monitor the disengagement of Israeli and Syrian forces and maintain the ceasefire. Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in 1967 and Syria wants the land returned in exchange for peace.

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, has warned of escalating military activity along the Israeli-Syrian border as a result of the intensifying Syrian conflict, which has gone on for two years and cost more than 70,000 lives.

In December, Ban accused the Syrian government of serious violations of the 1974 separation agreement and called on both countries to halt firing across the ceasefire line. He also cited numerous clashes between Syrian security forces and opposition fighters in the disengagement zone.

In response, he said, UNDOF has adopted a number of security measures.

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