20 UN peacekeepers taken hostage by Syrian rebels in Golan Heights

6Syrian rebels have seized twenty UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights on the border between Syria and Israel. The United Nations Security Council demands the convoy’s immediate release.

A young fighter saying he was from the “Martyrs of Yarmouk” said the peacekeepers would not be set free until Syrian government forces withdrew from the village of Jamlah, a mile east of the ceasefire link with the Israeli-occupied Golan, Reuters reports.

“If no withdrawal is made within 24 hours we will treat them as prisoners,” he said, claiming the UN forces had collaborated with Syrian government troops to drive the fighters out of the village.

After a video appeared on YouTube showing several armed-rebel fighters standing in front of two white armored vehicles bearing the UN inscription with at least five peacekeepers inside, the UN confirmed the incident.

UN deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey told reporters that “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,” the United Nations said in a statement issued in New York.

The UN Security Council demanded the peacekeepers immediate release. Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin said the seizure of the UN observers showed “gross disrespect for the United Nations.”

“Right now there are negotiations between UN representatives and the captors and we hope that the [UN] personnel will be released immediately as the UNSC demands,” Churkin said.

Mentioning an attack on Monday which killed 48 Syrian servicemen and nine Iraqi law enforcers, Churkin said the Golan incident showed “some people are trying very hard in order to extend the geography of the Syrian conflict.”

Human Rights watch said it was investigating the same rebel brigade for its role in a videotaped execution of detained Syrian soldiers posted on the Internet on Tuesday.

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