Forty-three United Nations peacekeepers in the Golan Heights were captured by Syrian rebels on Thursday, the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) said in a statement.
The UN peacekeepers from Fiji were captured during intense fighting between Islamic militants and the Syrian army near the Quneitra crossing, the only crossing between portions of the Golan Heights controlled by Syria and Israel. According to AFP, the soldiers’ weapons were taken from them before they were transported to the southern part of the buffer zone.
Another 81 UNDOF soldiers from the Philippines were besieged by insurgents in the vicinity of Ar Ruwayhinah and Burayqah. Quoting the Philippines’ defense department, AFP reported that the troops refused to disarm and are now “restricted to their positions”.
Militants belonging to Nusra Front, a group with links to al Qaeda, were involved in the attacks.
Israel seized 1,200 square kilometres of the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War. United Nations Security Council Resolution 350 established a demilitarised zone between Israeli and Syrian-held territory overseen by UNDOF. Currently, more than 1,200 UN peacekeepers from Fiji, the Philippines, India, Ireland, Nepal and the Netherlands are stationed there.