UNITED NATIONS: Syrian rebels seized three United Nations (UN) peacekeepers in the
Golan Heights in the third abduction in two months in the ceasefire zone between Syria and Israel, the UN said on Thursday (Friday in Manila).
The abduction of the three observers came as the United Nations struggles to persuade the Philippines to keep its troops in the Golan force, which has been hit by growing fallout from the Syrian civil war.
One of the three officers from the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) seized from an observation point in the early hours of Wednesday was from New Zealand, the New Zealand Defence Force said.
It said the army officer was held for about five hours before being released unharmed, declining to provide further details, including the nationalities of the other two peacekeepers who were taken.
The UN Security Council “strongly condemned” the abduction, which it blamed on “anti-government armed elements” that looted the observation post where the peacekeepers were overrun.
The 15-member council “noted with grave concern” the growing number of seizures in the zone and expressed strong support for the peacekeepers.
Twenty-one Filipino peacekeepers were abducted by Syrian rebels for five days in March. Four more were seized by the same group this month and released on Sunday.
The Filipinos were from the UN Disengagement Observer Force, which has monitored a ceasefire between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights since 1974.
UNTSO has about 170 unarmed observers based across the Middle East and one contingent helps UNDOF.