20 UN peacekeepers taken hostage by Syrian rebels in Golan Heights

89401 20 UN peacekeepers taken hostage by Syrian rebels in Golan Heights

A young fighter saying he was from the “Martyrs of Yarmouk” saidthe peacekeepers would not be set free until Syrian governmentforces withdrew from the village of Jamlah, a mile east of theceasefire link with the Israeli-occupied Golan, Reutersreports.”If no withdrawal is made within 24 hours we will treat them asprisoners,” he said, claiming the UN forces had collaboratedwith Syrian government troops to drive the fighters out of thevillage.After a video appeared on YouTube showing several armed-rebelfighters standing in front of two white armored vehicles bearingthe UN inscription with at least five peacekeepers inside, the UNconfirmed the incident.UN deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey told reporters that”approximately 30 armed fighters stopped and detained about 20peacekeepers within the area of limitation.”"The UN observers were on a regular supply mission and werestopped near Observation Post 58, which had sustained damage andwas evacuated this past weekend following heavy combat in closeproximity, at Al Jamlah,” the United Nations said in astatement issued in New York.The UN Security Council demanded the peacekeepers immediaterelease. Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin said the seizure of theUN observers showed “gross disrespect for the UnitedNations.”“Right now there are negotiations between UN representativesand the captors and we hope that the [UN] personnel will bereleased immediately as the UNSC demands,” Churkinsaid.Mentioning an attack on Monday which killed 48 Syrian servicemenand nine Iraqi law enforcers, Churkin said the Golan incidentshowed “some people are trying very hard in order to extend thegeography of the Syrian conflict.”Human Rights watch said it was investigating the same rebelbrigade for its role in a videotaped execution of detained Syriansoldiers posted on the Internet on Tuesday.The capture of the UN observers points to how the situation onthe ground in Syria is getting out of control and all sides areunable to control armed groups on the ground, Karl Sharpo, a MiddleEast blogger, told RT. He further warned that that there is no wayof knowing whose hands outside aid will end up.“The lines on the ground are very fluid, distinctions don’t reallyapply and you can’t make sure the weapons end up in the intendedsites. Again if you look at the fact at what this incidentillustrates is the lack of control that any military authority onthe ground for the opposition or an outside political authority,doesn’t exercise the control it says it does,” Sharpo said.The incident follows a statement on Wednesday by the Arab Leagueoffering military supportto the Syrian rebels. Previously the League had only offered tosupport the Syrian opposition via humanitarian and diplomaticassistance.Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elarby told a pressconference the Syrian Opposition Coalition had been formallyinvited to send a representative to attend a league meeting to beheld in Doha in April.The UK Foreign Secretary William Hague also announced onWednesday that Britain will increase non-lethal aid toanti-government forces in Syria. The $19.5 million dollar packagewill include armored vehicles, body armor, search and rescue,disease prevention and communication equipment.The Russian Foreign Ministry announced last week that anydecision to send aid to rebel fighters would intensify the two yearSyrian civil war by encouraging “extremists to seize power byforce.”Shortly after Israel warned the UN Security Council it could notbe expected to “stand idle” as the Syrian civil war expands beyondits borders, while Churkin said that armed groups operating out ofthe Golan were undermining regional security.“It’s of course something very dangerous they are doing bystaging armed activity from that area. It’s something which canundermine security between Syria and Israel. So whoever issupporting that kind of activity or approving it tacitly is playinga very dangerous game,” Churkin warned back on Monday.Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967war. The country agreed to return the land to Syria in return for apeace agreement that was rejected by the Arab world.During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Syrian forces crossed theceasefire line into the Golan Heights in an attempt to retake theterritory. Syria’s troops were repelled by Israeli forces.Israel annexed the Golan in 1981, though they returned about 5percent of the territory to Syria. The land was merged into ademilitarized zone that is currently patrolled by UN peacekeepingforces.

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20 UN peacekeepers taken hostage by Syrian rebels in Golan Heights

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