Syria Rebels Abduct 20 UN Peacekeepers
Armed Syrian rebels detained Wednesday about 20 UN peacekeepers in the Occupied Golan Heights between Syria and Occupied Palestine, urging the UN to call in a statement for their immediate release.
According to director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman, the peacekeepers were from the Philippines.
However, the United Nations did not give the nationalities of the UN Disengagement Force (UNDOF) troops taken in the latest incident in the tense Golan zone.
UN deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey told reporters the UN force had “reported that earlier today approximately 30 armed fighters stopped and detained about 20 peacekeepers within the area of limitation.”
“The UN observers were on a regular supply mission and were stopped near observation post 58, which had sustained damage and was evacuated this past weekend following heavy combat in close proximity, at al-Jamlah,” he added.
“The mission is dispatching a team to assess the situation and attempt a resolution,” the spokesman said.
The UN Security Council issued a statement later on Wednesday, demanding that Syrian rebel fighters release the abducted peacekeepers.
In parallel, UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said that negotiations were being held with the abductors.
The Security Council “strongly condemned the detention of a group of more than 20 peacekeepers,” said a statement read by the 15-nation body read to reporters by Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin.
The statement added that the abduction was carried out “by armed elements of the Syrian opposition.”
“The members of the Security Council demanded the unconditional and immediate release of all the detained UN peacekeepers and called upon all parties to cooperate with UNDOF in good faith to enable it to operate freely and to ensure full security of its personnel,” added the statement.
The United Nations has set up a crisis cell to handle the emergency, diplomats said.
“Negotiations are going on and the matter is mobilizing all our teams,” UN peacekeeping chief Ladsous said after briefing the Security Council on the abduction. “It is a very serious incident.”
Syrian opposition fighters are also believed to be holding an UNDOF staffer who was announced missing on February 25. The staffer is also believed to be a Filipino.
Churkin said that the rebels have made demands but did not give details.
In one of the you tube videos, a man identified as Abu Kaid al-Faleh, a spokesman for a rebels’ brigade, said the peacekeepers would not be freed until Syrian regime forces pull out from the area.
“We call on them to withdraw all their troops to their bases. If they do not withdraw, these men (UN troops) will be treated as prisoners,” he said.
In a second video, the same rebel accused the UNDOF of working with the army to try to suppress the insurgency and help regime forces enter Jamla.
“The Syrian regime, the UN and the European countries are all collaborators with Israel,” he said.
Source: News Agencies, Edited by moqawama.org