43 UN peacekeepers abducted amid Golan Heights clashes
UN officials report the detainment of 43 peacekeepers Thursday by militants in Syria, according to the AP.
In a statement following the news, the office of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon confirmed he detainment occured early Thursday morning on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights border with Israel when fighting between armed militias and Syrian government forces intesified.
In addition to the 43 take captive, 81 other peacekeepers have reported being sevely restricted from leaving their posts, essentially trapped in the vicinity of Ar Ruwayhinah and Buraykah.
Syrian rebels seized control of the border Wednesday after clashing with government forces. While the post is not a partcularly pivotal position for rebels, opposition forces said its capture would provide relief for civilians entaggled in villages undergoing government shelling.
British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the opposition forces fighting came from a number of groups, ranging from members of the Free Syrian Army, to members of Al-Qaeda-linked extremist group al-Nusra. The Observatory added at least 20 Syrian soldiers were killed in the clashes, but did not provide information about the number of opposition deaths.
The adducted peacekeepers are soldiers part of the UN's Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which is part of a peacekeeping mission set up by the UN in 1974 to uphold the Golan Heights truce between Syria and Israel.
UNDOF's duties were largely uninterrupted until the rise of Syria's nearly 4-year-long civil war in 2011, when soldiers began to encounter more violence.
The adductions follow the recent recall of a 331-soldier peacekeeping convoy from the Philipines, who said troops were being withdrawn amid security fears and after the week-long capture of 21 Filipinos by Syrian rebels.