44 Fiji Peacekeepers Captured by Syria Rebels

Militants force members of UN mission from Golan Heights post, also trap Filipino troops

By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 29, 2014 10:15 AM CDT

(Newser) – The UN says that 44 of its Fijian peacekeeping troops have been captured by militants in Syria, while 75 of its Filipino peacekeepers are surrounded by insurgents who want them to surrender their weapons, reports the AP. All of the soldiers are said to be alive, and leaders from both nations and the UN are working to resolve the situation peacefully, reports Reuters. The Fijian soldiers for the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force—a UN initiative with 1,249 troops from six countries who try to keep the peace between Israel and Syria—were at their Golan Heights post on the Syrian side when 150 rebels pulled up yesterday morning, forced the troops to board their vehicles, and drove away to an undisclosed location.

Meanwhile, militants surrounded two Filipino UNDOF camps and demanded the soldiers' weapons, which they so far have refused to give up during the standoff. Although countries such as Japan and Croatia have left UNDOF because of security risks, the remaining nations seem committed. "We will not make any recommendations of pulling out … because our contribution to UN peacekeeping—if we don't want to do this, then who else in the world would want to?" a Fiji military commander tells Reuters in a phone interview. It's not clear which anti-Syrian group is responsible.

Armored vehicles of UN peacekeepers of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, also known as UNDOF, wait to cross from the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights to Syria on Aug. 28, 2014.
Armored vehicles of UN peacekeepers of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, also known as UNDOF, wait to cross from the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights to Syria on Aug. 28, 2014.   (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
UN peacekeepers from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force observe Syria's Quneitra province at an observation point in the Golan Heights.
UN peacekeepers from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force observe Syria's Quneitra province at an observation point in the Golan Heights.   (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Armored vehicles from the UN peacekeepers of UNDOF wait to cross from the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights to Syria on Aug. 28, 2014.
Armored vehicles from the UN peacekeepers of UNDOF wait to cross from the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights to Syria on Aug. 28, 2014.   (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
A UN peacekeeper points as armored vehicles from the UN peacekeepers of UNDOF cross from the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights to Syria on Aug. 28, 2014.
A UN peacekeeper points as armored vehicles from the UN peacekeepers of UNDOF cross from the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights to Syria on Aug. 28, 2014.   (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
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