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Al Qaeda Terrorists “Detain” U.N. Peacekeepers in Golan Heights

The United Nations (UN) confirmed today that 43 member of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in Syria have been detained.

The Associated Press reports:

An armed group detained 43 U.N. peacekeepers during fighting in Syria early Thursday and another 81 peacekeepers are trapped, the United Nations said.
The peacekeepers were detained on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights during a “period of increased fighting between armed elements and the Syrian Arab Armed Forces,” the office of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement. It said another 81 peacekeepers are “currently being restricted to their positions in the vicinity of Ar Ruwayhinah and Burayqah.”

The UN noted that peacekeepers who had been detained earlier this year were later released unharmed.

Earlier terrorists affiliated with Al Qaeda claimed to have (Arabic link) kidnapped 50 soldiers from the U.N. peacekeeping force in the Golan Heights.

Although the nationalities of the soldiers are not yet known, the kidnapping near Quneitra is in an area patrolled by Philippine, Indian and Fijian troops. Philippine troops were kidnapped  in 2013 by Islamist rebels, but later released.

UNDOF was established in 1974 to monitor the ceasefire between Syrian and Israel following the October 1973 war. The increasing danger to the peacekeepers from jihadist forces trying to topple Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad led Austria, Croatia and Japan to pull their forces out due to the increasing danger. The Philippines announced last week they were also pulling their forces out. Last year the Philippines had first threatened to withdraw its troops from UNDOF, but later reconsidered.

According to The Times of Israel rebel fighters this week defeated Syrian government forces manning the Quneitra border crossing point with Israel with heavy fighting taking place in the area. (The Times of Israel cited a conference call with Maj. Gen. (res) Yaacov Amidror which was hosted by The Israel Project, publisher of The Tower. An audio of the conference call is available here.)

The physical threat to U.N. peacekeeping troops will make it harder for the organization to find replacements for the forces being withdrawn.

The fighting has repeatedly spilled over the border into Israel, with bullets, bombs and rockets hitting the Israeli side. In the most serious breach of the ceasefire between Syria and Israel, a teenage Israeli boy was killed in June.

A retired Irish army officer who served in Syria said:

The core mandate of the mission that is there is to oversee this area of separation between Israel and Syria. These armed elements that have inserted themselves into the situation are not within the operation’s mandate, but clearly they affect the stability of the situation in the area of operation.

Already in 2013 radical jihadist terrorists affiliated with Al Qaeda have moved into the area close to the Israeli border. Terrorists posted videos of themselves close to the border filming IDF activity, saying they will eventually attack Israel.

[Photo: The Israel Project]